Seat belts have long been proven to be effective, life-saving devices for automobile occupants since they were introduced in 1959.
In fact, the 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety said wearing a seat belt cuts in half the risk of death among front-seat passengers, with that figure going up to 75 percent among rear-seat passengers. This is why Republic Act (RA) 8750 or the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999 mandates the wearing of seat belts for both front and rear passengers of private vehicles and the installation of seat belts for all vehicles registered in the Philippines.
But although RA 8750 prohibits infants and children below six years old from sitting in the front passenger seat, there is currently no legislation detailing how these children, who are too small to be protected by a seat belt, should be secured in a car.
Seeing this problem, Volkswagen Philippines launched its Child Safety Initiative (CSI) campaign at the 2015 Manila International Auto Show in April this year, proposing an often-ignored solution – child restraints.
Yaya not enough
Quoting the WHO report, the company said in a press release that child-restraint systems, which include child seats for infants and booster seats for older children, can decrease the risk of death in a crash by about 70 percent for infants and up to 80 percent for small children.
Additionally, the 2009 United Nations Road Safety Collaboration Manual on Seatbelts and Child Restraints said up to nine out of 10 motorists in high-income countries like the US, the UK and Sweden use child restraints, but that these figures drop in lower-income countries like the Philippines because of larger family size, the cost of the devices and the lack of an effective information campaign.
“No parent will willingly put his or her child at risk,” said Volkswagen Philippines corporate affairs director Arnel Doria in an e-mail to Fast Times. “However, most of these parents do not recognize the risks of not using or misusing child seats. Some even believe that a yaya [nanny]holding the baby is safe enough in case of road crash.”
Lobbying for child-restraint awareness and laws
Doria said that although Volkswagen is doing its part with the CSI campaign, there should be a strong information campaign, through both traditional and online media, to elicit reaction from the general public.
“Like in Europe and America, there should be lobbying to pass legislation mandating the use of standard child seats,” he said. “Also, responsible establishments should strive to bring down the cost of standard child seats, as well as participate in the promotion of child seats.”
He also said that parents who own older vehicles and have children below 12 years old should consider purchasing vehicles with ISOFIX, an anchoring system specially designed for compatible child-restraint systems, which has been standard on European cars since 2007.
“Child seats installed using seatbelts offer less protection in the event of violent collision,” he said.
Types of child restraints
According to the UN report, child restraints are classified according to a child’s age, weight and height. It recommends that children six years old and below use child seats for maximum protection, while those seven to 11 years old use booster seats to help properly secure them with the adult seat belt.
Volkswagen said it offers three classes of child restraints: for babies from 0 to 15 months old; for children from eight months to four years old; and for children from three to eight years old.
In addition, the company said all of its vehicles (except for the Polo 1.6 TDI sedan) come with ISOFIX.
As part of the CSI campaign, Volkswagen tied up with Robinsons Malls for a series of mall tours, where parents and children can learn more about road safety. One of the major activities is the Junior Road Safety Course, where kids are taught road safety and get to drive on a simulated circuit, getting a Junior Driver’s License afterwards.
The dates for the remaining mall tours are: September 5-6 – Robinsons Forum Mandaluyong; September 12-13 – Shangri-La Plaza Mall; and September 19-20 – Robinsons Lipa.