About two years ago, Republic Act 10666 or the Children’s Safety on Motorcycles Act took effect and placed conditions on small children riding as passengers on motorcycles — or two-wheeled motor vehicles. I support this law, but I do not understand why tricycles were seemingly exempted from it.
Under this law, children below 18 years old may “back-ride” as passengers only under the following conditions: feet can comfortably reach the standard foot peg of the motorcycle; arms can reach around and grasp the waist of the motorcycle driver; and, the use of standard protective helmet or gear.
A report on the law by online news website Rappler cited Philippine Statistics Authority figures that an average of 671 children died every year in road crashes in the Philippines from 2006 to 2014, mostly in the 5-9 years old and 10-14 range. It also noted that motorcycle injuries were responsible for 56% of road crash deaths nationwide.
I agree with the enactment of RA 10666, but I don’t understand why it seemingly exempted — inexplicably, in my opinion — motorcycles with sidecars and tricycles. I also support the seat belt law or RA 8750 and its prohibition on children in front seats (six years old and below). But, I also don’t understand why it is required only for front-seat passengers in public utility vehicles.
But now comes a newer law — Republic Act 1129 or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicle Act — that raised the limit on front-seat prohibition to all children 12 years old and below and shorter than five feet tall. The new law also now requires the use of child safety restraints or child safety seats in cars.
I am all for child safety in motor vehicles. I can even be swayed to adjust the limit to nine years old from six. But, 12 years old? Also, if the intent of the new law is to promote child safety in motor vehicles — regardless of type and ownership of vehicle — then its guidelines should ensure that all types of conveyances will be required to use child safety seats. No exemptions. But, I guess, this will not be the case.
By making child safety seats a requirement, rather than an option, there is the implication that motor vehicles, in general, as they come out of the production lines, are generally unsafe for children 12 years and below. If so, should they then still be sold to families with young children? Or, why do we then allow them to be sold as presently configured, if such configuration is implied to be unsafe for our young?
Moreover, if the issue is safety, and the implication is that as presently configured, vehicles are unsafe for children 12 years and below, then the legal requirement for child safety restraints should cover all child passengers in both private and public vehicles. Type of ownership and use should not be an issue. Even franchised vehicles should be included.
I am a father and I have a son who just turned nine. Soon, with the new law, I can no longer drive him to and from school — or anywhere else, for that matter, unless I have a government-approved child safety seat suited and appropriate for a child his age. In fact, he cannot board and ride any other privately owned car without the required safety seat.
Will the same rule also apply to all school vans, jeepneys, taxis, Grab Cars, and public buses? If the intent of this new law is child safety in motor vehicles, it should not single out privately owned vehicles while some other motor vehicles, including motorcycles, are exempt from the requirement. There are child safety seats available for motorcycles and bicycles, but two-wheelers are not required locally to use them.
In the case of car rentals, will they also be required to supply child safety seats to customers with children 12 years and below? How about hotels cars, airport cars and taxis, and other commercial vehicles like small delivery vans of small private businesses? Can they allow children to ride without the appropriate child safety seat?
What if I am an entrepreneur with a small business and all I could afford to buy was a single-cab pickup truck or a small delivery van. The same truck or van allows me to bring my son to and from school, and my wife to and from work. Then, I use the same vehicle for small deliveries for my business during the day.
Since it is a single-cab truck, or a delivery van with front seats only, can my son still ride in front? Will the use of a suitable child car seat suffice, despite the fact that the child seat will be in “front”? If the vehicle was registered as a commercial vehicle because it is also used for deliveries, will the law requiring a child safety seat still apply to me?
What if it were a for-hire van and I drive it as a UV Express or a Grab Car (Large), will the child safety seat requirement still apply to me? If I am out with my son and I flag down a taxi or order a Grab Car, do we have to bring our own safety seat? What if we ride the jeepney or the bus or a tricycle, will they have safety seats for children?
If not, then what was intended to make children safe will actually limit their options for safer conveyances. Car owners without child safety seats will be forced to make their young children ride other vehicles that may not be required to use car seats, like taxis, Grab cars, and other public vehicles or vehicles for hire.
Children who go to school in carpools driven by parents will no longer have this option unless car seats are provided for each of the young children in the pool. Cars that used to comfortably seat three children to a row will now have to settle for two, considering the space required by child safety seats. The same goes for families with two or more small children. Safety seats must be bought for all of them.
Incidentally, there are hundreds if not thousands of electric bikes and electric scooters now on our streets — used for delivery, for going to work, for bringing children to school, for making short trips from home — and all these are unlicensed, unregulated, and general unsafe to be on our roads. Some young children ride their bikes on public roads. And yet, there is no law to cover them. Maybe we should look into legislation that will regulate them as well.
We required the purchase of Early Warning Devices (EWDs) that practically nobody uses; we required the purchase of Compulsory Third Party Liability Insurance (CTPL) that only some actually claim; we have a seat belt law and a law against distracted driving (or the use of mobile devices) that are difficult to enforce and that many motorists largely ignore; and, we have a child safety on motorcycle law that is easily circumvented simply by the purchase and use of a helmet. Now, we have a new law requiring child safety seats, probably only for privately owned cars.
I accept the fact that there is no going around this new law on child safety. And that is precisely the reason why, since birth, my son has had a car seat. We were lucky enough to borrow one for him early on, and, later on, buy a bigger one that can be used until he’s 12 years old. I removed the seat some years back, after he turned six. Luckily, I kept it. Now, it is back in the car — as required by this new law.
But what about the hundreds of thousands of other car owners with small children, or give rides to children? They all have to buy child safety seats, I guess. Relatives and friends with young children can no longer share or hitch a ride unless they bring their own safety seats. Well, they always can opt for less-safe public vehicles that are probably going to be exempt from this new law, anyway.
Marvin A. Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippines Press Council