An accident is very different from a road crash. An accident refers to an unfortunate incident that happens by chance, or one that is unexpected and unintentional. In short, no one is at fault. While, a road crash is when vehicles collide with one another or with an object, and the fault cannot be disregarded. Thus, to call it as merely an accident suggests that the event was something beyond control and it implies a description with an excuse embedded within it. Though a road crash is not premeditated, there is negligence on the part of the driver due to various reasons or other contributory factors. These reasons can include dangerous driving that result in possible convictions due to the death or loss of property, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. By this misuse of the proper terminology in calling it what it is, people tend to neglect the use of prevention and leave their lives to chance as what an accident simply is. As soon as we start calling a road crash a “road crash,” only then will we be on the right track to Road Safety.
What then are these prevention mechanisms for the five risk factors of Road Safety? According to the World Health Organization, the five risk factors on Road Safety are speed, helmet on motorcycles, drinking and driving, seatbelts, and child safety seats (or child restraints system). While the Philippines has laws on the first four indicators, there remains a huge gap in the law that would protect our very own children, including infants, from the injuries or death caused by a road crash. There is no law requiring the use of child car seats in the Philippines. The Seatbelt Act of 1999 authorizes the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to issue rules and regulations for the use of special car seats for infants. At the moment LTO has not issued any guidelines and it can only cover infants, at most.
Currently there are two Child Car Seats bills that are pending approval in both houses of Congress, Senate Bill No. (SB) 1447 and House Bill No. (HB) 6938, which is the substitute bill of HB 5595 and HB 1319. On 30 January 2018, HB 6938 has been approved on Second Reading. While the Senate Committee on Public Services is expected to conduct on 14 February 2018 its first hearing on SB 1447.
We hope to reach out to each and every concerned parent, mother, father, and all who would seek the protection for their child. It is your support in the bills that would ensure the utmost protection of our most vulnerable children on the road, especially during a road crash. A child car seat reduces the likelihood of road crash fatalities by 70 percent among infants and up to 80 percent among children.
The latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that the number of registered yearly deaths caused by transport-related crashes in the Philippines increased 27 percent to 8,636 in 2014, from 6,806 in 2006. The same data show that during this nine-year period, a total of 70,541 Filipinos died due to road crashes equivalent to 7,838 yearly or an average of 23 fatalities daily.
Of the total road deaths from 2006 to 2014, 17 percent of the victims or 12,009 were youngsters from less than one year old to 19 years old. This meant that on the average, 1,334 yearly or about 4 to 5 children die daily from transport-related crashes.
PSA projected the number of children aged 0 to 4 would be 11.48 million in year 2020. For 0-14 years old, the population is projected to be 33.31 million in 2020. Data from the Department of Transportation also show an increasing number of cars in the country with 759,683 in 2010; 788,372 in 2011; 808,968 in 2012, and 830,131 in 2013. Moreover, according to a 2014 Nielsen Survey of Global Automotive Demand, 53 percent Filipino households own a car, while 7 in 10 Filipino households are expected to buy a car from 2014 to 2016. As a result, the passage of such a law requiring the use of child car seats potentially has the effect of protecting millions of our children being transported daily in cars alone.
Let us band together to ensure the passage of the Child Car Seat bills s to give our vulnerable children a fighting chance.
About the Author: Atty. Melisa Jane B. Comafay is affiliated with the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS). IDEALS is a legal-focused advocacy and service institution organized to address the legal and technical needs of the marginalized, disempowered and vulnerable groups. IDEALS works with the Global Road Safety Project to promote car safety seats in the Philippines. Do like and follow fb.com/buckleupkidsPH and https://ideals.org.ph.