Newly-Passed Bill Requires the Use of Child Restraint Systems for Your Kids

Cherryl Anne Cruz

The House Committee on Transportation voted in favor of a bill that requires private vehicles to install car restraint seats for children.

Children on car restraint seats

Approved last September 18, the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act of 2017 prohibits any child under 12 years old to occupy the front seat of a motor vehicle. They should also be accompanied by adults at all times inside the car, and are required to be in a child restraint system whenever a vehicle is moving on any street, road, or highway.**

What’s a “Child Restraint System”?

According to the bill, “a ‘child restraint system’ is defined as a device capable of accommodating a child occupant in a sitting or supine position. Child restraint devices include infant seats and booster seats.

How to choose car restraint seats

Children are strapped inside these devices, which are then strapped to the car’s seats. It’s designed to diminish the risk of injury to the child by limiting his/her mobility in the event of a collision or an abrupt deceleration of the vehicle.

Such is the case with the son of actress and TV Host Jolina Magdangal and musician Mark Escueta. They were on their way along East Ave., Quezon City for a family holiday, when a van smashed the rear portion of their SUV while at full stop (red light). The driver of the van apparently had fallen asleep.

Jolina after the vehicle accident

The crash caused minor injuries for Jolina, while her son Pele, whose front-facing car seat was strapped to the rear seat of the SUV, was safe inside his chair.

His Dad, Mark Escueta even posted: “He did not even cry” on his Facebook post.

Number of child deaths in accidents increasing

If Pele weren’t in his car restraint seat, he would have experienced more serious injuries–even death. In the Philippines, an average of 600 children died in road crashes each year–from 2006 to 2014.

And the number of children within this age group have been increasing over the years, only slightly dipping in 2013. According to DOH’s Report on “Road Transport/Vehicular Accident Cases”, around 3,503 children aged 0-14 died or were injured in road crashes in 2015 compared to the 2,335 casualties that occurred in 2010.

Number of children aged 0-14 who were injured or killed in car crashes

Still a “new concept” in the country

Unfortunately, child restraint devices are quite new to the Philippines. In fact, only 18 percent of drivers are even aware of them during an interview involving 1,004 drivers in the Philippines. And only 6.2 percent of the respondents’ children used child restraints.

What’s more, in a baseline study regarding the affordability and availability of car seats in the Philippines, the study revealed that parents who did use car seat restraints stopped using them when their child turned one year old.

“A baseline study on the availability, affordability, and acceptability of age-appropriate child restraints in the Philippines.”

Perhaps, its relative newness, combined with the common misunderstandings surrounding these devices, can account for their lackluster popularity among Filipino families. Some of these misguided ideas involve the following:

1. Not available in the Philippines

Types of car restraint seats

Many believe that these car restraint systems are not available in the Philippines. In reality, there are already seven, locally-distributed brands that offer child restraint seats in the Philippines. There are also 25 brands that can easily be purchased online.

2. Slow traffic is a deterrent

Drivers assume that the slow traffic decreases the need for these seats–which isn’t in this case. Child restraint systems not only protect kids during a crash, but like what happened to Pele, can also protect children in case their vehicles get hit by a car.

3. They are expensive

Some argue that the seats are expensive. Admittedly, these restraint devices don’t come cheap. The new ones cost around P10,000, while the secondhand ones are priced at around P4,200.

Still, studies reveal that many parents are willing to pay  between P1,000 to P5,000 for these restraints, so parents can opt for the used ones, instead.

4. Standard seat belts can do the job

Children in car seatbelts

Another misconception that many parents have is that standard seat belts are more than adequate to protect their kids. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a rear-facing restraint can reduce the risk of  injury by up to 80 percent for children with ages 0-4 years old. However, those who are on the standard adult seat belts face more risk, with only a 32 percent chance of not getting injured in a vehicular collision.

* CLARIFICATION: This bill was approved only in Congress, and still needs the approval of the Senate (and hopefully the President as well) before it becomes law. The process is still ongoing.

** You can learn more about this law and its penalties here.

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