Back in 2017, the Philippine Congress approved RA 11229, or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act which sought to provide “special protection to child passengers in motor vehicles” by requiring the use of car seats or a child restraint system.
In March of 2019, the law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 22, 2019. Full enforcement was expected to happen in 2020, however, due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the official implementation was pushed back. Despite the delay, the official implementation date of this act is officially February 2, 2021.
Editor's note: This article will be continually updated as more developments come.
What is the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act?
Otherwise known as RA 11229, the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act requires motorists with children younger than 12 years, and with a height of under 150 cm tall to be seated in a running motor vehicle with a standard child restraint system or a child seat.
The objective of the law is to maximize the safety of children inside of motor vehicles. As obvious as it sounds, back in 2018, a total of 12,487 deaths were recorded due to road accidents, leading lawmakers to push for this act.
Road safety laws being pushed by the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), expressed the necessity for the safety of children using a child restraint system, with the Philippines being a little late to adopt this law and to implement it compared to the rest of the world.
Do child seats matter?
The quick answer is yes, however, to back up the answer, according to SafeSeats4Kids.AAA.com, car crashes are the leading cause of injury or death for children. Regular seatbelts for motor vehicles are not scaled to the size of a child, and according to the website, the child restraint systems reduce the risk of injury by up to 71% to as high as 82%, while the risk of death is brought down to 28% compared to regular seatbelts. Meanwhile, booster seats, reduce non-fatal injuries among 4- to 8-year-old children by 45%.
The point is, seatbelts are just not designed for children. While a car’s safety rating may be high, without the occupants totally secured in place, bodily injury or death is more likely regardless of a high ASEAN NCAP rating. Most 3-point seatbelts are scaled to the size of an adult. That’s why the minimum requirements of the law state that children below 150 cm (4’9”), and aged 12 and below will not be allowed to sit in the front passenger seat of a running motor vehicle.
Rules and regulations
The law requires that children under the age of 12 are prohibited from occupying the front passenger seat.
The law states that children under 4.92ft, 4ft 11in, 59 inches, or 150 cm in height must be secured in a child seat or restraint system unless he or she is taller than said height. Passengers taller than this measurement “must be properly secured using a regular seatbelt,” according to the law.
Child seats must conform to United Nations Regulations 44 and 149.
Based on Memorandum Circular No. 21-20 series of 2021, manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers must secure the Philippine Standard (PS) Safety Certification Mark License or the Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) certificate before selling the child restraint system.
Parents who've bought child seats prior to the Republic Act must get clearance from the LTO to use the child restraint system in accordance with section 13 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11229.
Public and private motor vehicles are covered by the law. No developments have been made for Tricycles and Motorcycles just yet, but it will be studied by the DOTr.
As for the implementation in public transport vehicles or public utility vehicles, the DOTr is required to conduct a study on the use of child restraint systems in Jeeps, buses, taxis, vans, and other forms of public transportation on the road.
While the law is to be implemented, there are certain exceptions as noted by the rules and regulations.
- In times of medical emergencies where a child seat could potentially worsen the condition or health of the child.
- If the child has a medical or developmental condition where a child seat could do more harm than good.
Fines and penalties
If caught with a child aged 12 years old and below, under the minimum height requirement, the driver of the vehicle will be fined accordingly.
First offense - P1,000
Second offense - P2,000
Third offense - P5,000 + 1-year driver’s license suspension
Also, the use of substandard child seats or child restraint systems will also merit the same fines and penalties for the driver of the vehicle.
Types of Child Seats
There are several types of child restraint systems for automobiles. Standard child car seats or child restraint systems must be of quality and from a reputable manufacturer that has gone through a battery of tests to ensure safety. According to the law, the seat must conform to the United Nations Regulations 44 and 149.
Rear-facing or Infant-only car seats are easily identifiable thanks to their orientation. Rear-facing or infant seats face in the opposite direction of the seat they are installed in. It is recommended that children of up to 2 years of age can fit and are supposed to be placed in these kinds of seats. The seats should be placed in the back seat of the car, or the middle row, and never in the front where the front passenger airbag is located.
Convertible seats are a more optimal choice if motorists wish to maximize their purchase. A convertible seat is able to stay with the child longer as it can be oriented in a rear-facing manner for when the child is 2 years and younger and at least 9 kilograms or 20 pounds, or as a forward-facing seat once those two parameters are exceeded.
Combination seats, on the other hand, are intended for children at least a year old and weigh in at about 9 to 18 kilograms, or 20 to 40 pounds. They cannot be oriented in a rearward-facing manner but can be converted to a booster seat once the child is at least 18 kilograms or about 4 years of age.
Booster seats are intended for use with children who are 4 to 8 years of age. Once your child exceeds the weight and the height limit of their car seat, booster seats are the next step until they graduate to a regular car’s seatbelt.
How to install a child car seat
There are two main ways that car seats install onto the backseat of a vehicle. Either through the use of the ISOFIX child seat anchoring system, or through the use of seatbelts.