Editorial: The child car seat debacle

·3 min read

IT MADE everyone sit up and talk.

When Land Transportation Office National Capital Region (LTO-NRC) Director Clarence Guinto said, “Siguro po laki-lakihan mo ‘yung sasakyan mo (maybe you should just get a bigger car),” as reply to host Amy Perez’s question on how families with taller and bigger kids can comply with the Child Car Seat Law, reactions were as hot as a cup of coffee on an otherwise lethargic Monday morning.

Perez, in her dzMM Teleradyo program, was discussing the mandatory compliance of The Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act or Republic Act 11229, particularly the use of car seats or restraints for children aged 12 years old and below, pointing out that buckling up taller kids with the use of car seats may do more harm than good. The law was supposed to be implemented on Feb. 2, 2021.

Guinto later in the day apologized for his remark, saying it was said in jest.

It was also made clear that children who are at least 150 centimeters or 59 inches in height may be exempted by the law but will have to be “properly secured using a regular seatbelt.”

But trust the ever-humorous Pinoy to turn the much-talked about discussion into a meme-fest. Moments later, there were Facebook posts by parents strapping their tall kids in bolster seats, with some joking that they had just bought a brand-new SUV to adjust to the LTO-NCR director’s statement.

Lost in the online noise is the fact that the law was passed in Congress and signed by President Rodrigo Duterte almost two years ago, Feb. 22, 2019 to be exact. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), which was approved on Dec. 23, 2019, took effect in February 2020.

“This is not just a policy or rule implemented by the DOTr (Department of Transportation) nor LTO on its own volition,” the DOTr clarified in a statement issued on Feb. 2, 2021.

Being a new law, it has a transitory period of one year during which a comprehensive information, education and communications campaign would have to be undertaken, as provided for in the IRR.

All these hit a snag last year due to the travel and movement restrictions brought about by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

RA 11229 was created primarily to ensure the safety of children on board motor vehicles. Based on a study by the World Health Organization, “the proper installation and use of car seats can reduce the risk of death for infants by 70 percent and 47 and 54 percent for children, aged one to four years old, during road crash incidents.”

However, it is understandable that the implementation of the law was met with great resistance. As it is, parents are already struggling to make both ends meet. A child car seat, worth at least P5,000, would mean a sizeable dent in the household budget.

It is, therefore, a welcome development that LTO and DOTr announced yesterday that they have agreed on the deferment of the implementation of the law, acknowledging that much has to be done in informing the public about it and emphasizing the need to involve all stakeholders so that the law may be effectively enforced.

Parents can heave a sigh of relief for now, as they buckle up for tougher times ahead.