I encountered a traffic enforcer ticketing a taxi driver for allegedly not wearing a seat belt. It appears that he was wearing his seat belt, but his passenger who was sitting in the front seat with his kid was not wearing his seat belt. Because of this, I’d like to know the extent of the scope of the Seat Belt Law and the nature of its penalties.
Can the passengers be fined together with the driver in case of violation of the Seat Belt Law? I look forward to the advice of your office on this matter. Thank you and good day!
Republic Act (RA) 8750, known as the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999, is the law that requires mandatory compliance of public and private motorists to use seat belt devices in line with the policy of the State in pursuing a more proactive and preventive approach in securing the safety of passengers and drivers from vehicular accidents (Sec. 2, Ibid.).
According to this law:
“For their own safety, the driver and front seat passengers of a public or private motor vehicle are required to wear or use their seat belt devices while inside a vehicle of running engine on any road or thoroughfare: Provided, that for private vehicles, except for jeeps, jeepneys, vans, buses and such other private vehicles as may be determined in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), front and back seat passengers are also required to use their seat belt devices at all times.
In the case of public motor vehicles, the driver shall be required to immediately inform and require the front seat passengers upon boarding a vehicle of running engine to wear the prescribed seat belts. Any passenger who refuses to wear seat belts shall not be allowed to continue his/her trip.” (Sec. 4, Id.) Emphasis supplied.
As stated in this cited provision, both the driver and passengers of a motor vehicle are required to use their seat belt devices. It is also stated that the drivers should inform and require their passengers to wear their seatbelts and may prevent the latter from continuing the trip if refused.
You mentioned in your narration that the traffic violation you encountered also involves a child sitting in the front seat. Considering this, it is also important to note that aside from requiring the use of seat belt, the seat belt law also has a provision that expressly prohibits children six (6) years old and below from sitting in the front seat of any motor vehicles (Sec. 5, Id.).
With regard to the penalties for failure to wear seat belts, the Department of Transportation and Communications, together with the Land Transportation Office, came up with Joint Administrative Order 2014-01, which revised the schedule of fines and penalties of traffic violations including non-compliance with the Seat Belt Law.
Based on this order, the failure to wear the prescribed seat belt, including allowing a child six (6) years old and below to be seated on the front passenger seat, shall make the driver liable for a fine in the amount of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00) for the first offense, Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000.00) for the second offense and Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) for the third offense. In addition to this, the driver’s license shall be suspended for a period of one (1) week from the payment of fine for the third and succeeding offenses. The law also provides that the failure of public utility vehicles to require their passengers to wear seat belts, including failure to post signage to remind the passengers to wear their seatbelts, shall make both the driver and operator liable for a fine of Three Thousand Pesos (P3,000.00) for every offense.
It can be seen here that the law enforces strict penalties for non-compliance with the Seat Belt Act. And for public utility vehicles, it is the driver and operator who are made liable for the fines should their passengers fail to wear the seat belts.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org