THE long delayed implementation of Republic Act 11229, known also as a law which provides for the Special Protection of Child Passengers in Motor Vehicles will finally be passed as the draft implementing rules and regulations have been completed.
While the law will not take effect until a year after the IRR is approved and published, it is important to understand the spirit and content of the law, especially for current and future parents of young children who fall under the law’s regulations.
In summary the law prohibits children 150 centimeters (4’11”) or less in height, or 12 years of age, to sit in the front passenger seat. The law took into consideration the fact that an airbag that deploys in case of a frontal collision can kill a young occupant. It was not clarified in the IRR whether an exemption applies to vehicles without a front passenger airbag. No local law sets the mandatory use of front passenger airbags even though many vehicles now have the SRS systems as standard. The IRR also did not pay attention to the availability of a passenger airbag deactivation switch or trigger.
“This will be difficult for parents with babies and little children because they cannot see their child strapped in the back,” Rona Daluta, a mother of three and an privacy consultant commented. She recounts that when her youngest child was born, she would bring her two other children to school while the baby was strapped in a child restraint system in front in her car with the front airbag off.
“Having lived abroad for some time, I realized the value of child seats and restraining children too. The new IRR for the Philippines does is not flexible enough,” she added.
Globally, adoption of passenger airbag switches are used and many locally available vehicles, even mid-ranged prices ones have this feature. The United Nations actually allows the use of a rear-facing child seat in front for vehicles with airbag switches. This was not considered in the IRR directly. Since this is a draft implementation, it also called on civil society to contribute to its further development.
“How about owner type jeeps? These vehicles do not have proper seatbelt anchor points or even proper rear seats. Are they exempted from the rules?” Antonio Felix, a father of three, his youngest a three year old diagnosed with Down Syndrome. He said he asked this question because where he lives in Cavite, owner type jeepneys are the norm.
The rule was not clear about teenagers and adults under five feet tall sitting infront. This law is very specific to children, but if one considers the spirit of the law—individuals who are under the required height limit should be covered by it, though it is not necessary to sit on child seats or booster seats.
The IRR mandates that all child safety restraint systems be certified by the Bureau of Product Standards and marked with an Import Clearance Certificate. This will effectively remove all unsafe and old child seats the can be found in Japan surplus shops. Old child seats may suffer from plastic corrosion or deterioration or even frame malformation if recovered from a road crash.
The IRR does not have an approved list of child seats, instead it set guidelines following United Nations regulations No. 44 and No. 129. There are many child seats now available in the market, even those expensive American, European or Japanese marques that are UN approved and carry seals of safety from their respective countries transportation departments. The DTI-BPS is also tasked to periodically publish a list of brands that meet these regulations.
This is no guarantee that these child seats can be sold or will be legal for use in the Philippines if they do not carry the PS Mark License or ICC certificate prior to sale.
The establishment of an LTO Fitting Station is going to be a huge burden to the department and should be re-evaluated. Proper seat installation can be done with a mere YouTube video or the use of an installation manual.
“The letter of the law and its implementation should be subject to practical considerations,” lawyer Roy Marcelo commented. A father of two, he has been using car seats even long before it was a law. His children now all teenagers benefitted from the use of car seats.
“We had an accident in Baguio twelve years ago when my eldest son was only four years old. He was in the rear seat on a car seat. A van it us from behind and into the side of my SUV. It happened quickly and it could have been fatal if my sons were not on a child seat and a booster seat,” Marcelo narrated.
Aside from home-made vehicles like owner jeeps, public utility vehicles are also not covered by the law. Currently these PUVs are temporarily exempted. And no guidelines were included in the final draft IRR except that the DoTr will go into a deeper study that will determine the feasibility of CRS on PUVs.
That exclusion includes taxis and TNVS.
The DoTr should train parents on how to handle children sitting in booster seats.
“Kids who are used to just sitting in the back seats with no restraints whatsoever may find the transition to being restrained difficult. This is where training should be made,” comments Daluta.
Human ecologist Lourdes Tribdino said that parents don’t use child seats because it’s inconvenient. But with a law, they will take the inconvenience, but predicts parents will skirt the law whenever possible.
“On one hand, installing and removing seats is difficult. Child seats limits passenger load—in some instances effectively cutting down passenger space because of the size of the seats. Children, on the other hand, especially younger ones will complain, sometimes excessively, about being too tight, being hot, or not sitting with Mommy or Daddy or beside Kuya or Ate,” Tribdino said.
The main focus of this draft IRR requires the DTI-BPS to release technical regulations for child restraint certification within six months of the passage of the final IRR. It also specified the various penalties for violations of the law.
“In the U.S. stopping a car with children on board required a full training and certification session for law enforcers,” Tribdino said in reference to the application of ‘trauma-free’ apprehensions as provided by law. This rule indicates that driver of any vehicle carrying a kid not buckled up will be held liable and in no instance will an enforcer be allowed to hold the child so as not to cause trauma. The enforcer’s only job it to “ensure that child passengers are not subjected to any form of distress during the apprehension.”
“But the mere presence of a uniformed police man even just talking to the parent can cause trauma to the child,” she adds. In a report that appeared in Vera Files, PNP-HPG Police Supt. Oliver Tanseco was quoted as saying that law enforcers must be trained to ensure that children aren’t traumatized during apprehensions.
“When we started the Technical Working Group for the IRR, it was very clear, we should not traumatize the child,” he said in that report.