Embrace child safety in motor vehicles

ROAD crashes kill about 1.35 million people around the world each year, becoming the leading cause of death among five- to 29-year-olds, according to a World Health Organization report. More than 90 percent of fatalities are from low- and middle-income countries. Road crashes were also found to be one of the top 5 causes of preventable injuries in children, reveals a joint WHO-UNICEF report. According to WHO, the use of safety seats in cars reduce infant deaths by approximately 70 percent, while deaths of small children by 54 percent.

In the Philippines, road deaths last 2018, as presented by Imagine Law, was 12,487. That is more than 34 persons every day. With the signing into law in February 2019 of Republic Act 11229, or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act, the country now has laws on all five key behavioral risk factors for global road safety: speed, drunk driving, helmet use on motorcycles, seat belt use, and now the use of child restraints. RA 11229 aims to ensure the safety of children while being transported in any form of motor vehicle. It uses the standards set forth by UNR 44 and 129. It was enforced beginning February 2, 2021.

RA 11229 requires that children up to 12 years of age or up to 4’ 11” in height, while inside a covered private motor vehicle, should each be buckled up in a car seat, also a called child restraint system (CRS), appropriate for the child’s age, height, or weight. According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), a CRS “is a device capable of accommodating a child occupant in a sitting or supine position. It is so designed to diminish the risk of injury to the wearer, in the event of a collision or of abrupt deceleration of the vehicle, by limiting the mobility of the child’s body.” This means, as explained further by Imagine Law, the CRS protects a child by a) keeping the person in the vehicle; b) directing the forces to the strongest parts of the body (hips and shoulders) and distributes the force over a wide area; c) protecting the head, neck, brain and spinal cord; and d) helping the occupant ride down the crash (like catching an egg).

RA 11229 further states that children in the stated age group must not sit in the front seats of the vehicle; and must never be left unaccompanied by an adult, even if strapped in a CRS. The law covers all private vehicles, including those under lease. It does not cover public utility vehicles.

This policy prohibits the promotion, sale or use of substandard or expired child car seats. Units that meet the standards of the DTI-Bureau of Philippine Standards should have a PS License Mark or an ICC Sticker on the product or product packaging. This is issued to a manufacturer whose quality management system and product have successfully complied with the requirements of the PNS (Philippine National Standards) ISO 9001 and the relevant product standards, respectively.

When buying CRS, take note of the following:

  • manufacturer’s name or trademark —to ensure it comes from a credible manufacturer
  • year of production
  • instructions for correct installation and use
  • country of origin
  • serial/batch number
  • PS License Mark or ICC Sticker

Child car seats purchased prior to the effectivity of RA 11229, and thus bear neither PS Mark nor ICC Sticker, must first be checked and cleared for use by the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

For infants zero to 15 months, within zero to 13 kg, rear facing positioned infant carrier car seats are recommended. For toddlers 15 months to four years, within nine to 36 kg, forward facing car seats are recommended. For children four to 12 years old, within 15 to 36 kg, you will need a booster seat.  There are also convertible car seats that can accommodate multiple age groups.

Celebrity mom Jolina Magdangal is appealing to parents to use car seats when traveling with their children to help stem the still-high number of road incidents in pandemic-ridden 2020. “Para sa isang magulang na katulad ko, ano pa ba ang mas mahalaga kundi ang safety ng mga anak natin at mahal sa buhay?” said Jolina in a recent interview.

Jolina’s resolve in ensuring her children’s safety inside cars, and for road safety in general, arises from her family having been in a road crash. In July 2017, a van rammed into the rear of their family car while they were en route to the airport to catch a flight. She and her husband, musician Mark Escueta, suffered minor injuries. Their son, Pele, three years old at the time, was with them and, thankfully, emerged from the accident unharmed.

“How thankful I was for the car seat. What if I had not put my son in a car seat? With his small and fragile body, I dread to think of what could have happened were he not in a car seat,” she recalled of her relief after she checked on her son right after their car was hit. Apart from being mildly upset at his crinkles having been thrown out of the container, Pele was fine—cushioned from the impact of the crash by the car seat he was strapped in.

In closing, as Imagine Law, stated in their presentation on car accidents: “Your loving embrace is not enough.” Let’s all take car safety for our families, especially our kids, to heart to today.

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