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How seat belts can save lives

How seat belts can save lives

By Melvin Magadia, for Automart.PH

METRO MANILA, June 6, 2022 – As a driver, it is your responsibility to keep yourself and your passengers safe.

Although your car may be loaded with safety features, you can’t deny the importance of wearing seat belts as protection from serious injuries and deaths in a road crash. When your car is running at top speed and suddenly crashes into another vehicle or object, the impact could be devastating.

Unfortunately, wearing a seat belt is not the habit of many Filipinos. According to the Land Transportation Office, Republic Act 8750, otherwise known as Seat Belts Use Act of 1999, was the most violated traffic law in 2016.

Why are seat belts important?

According to safety inspections conducted by car manufacturers, drivers can only keep themselves safe from injuries if the car is moving at just 5 km/h. But at 70 km/h, if a car suddenly stops, passengers without seat belts will be thrown forward at the same speed.

Using data from actual road crashes, scientists at the University of Adelaide revealed that the risk of a crashes for a car traveling at 70 km/h increases fourfold. Without a seat belt, the chances of the occupant surviving is slim.

Moreover, seat belts distribute the impact of the crash to the chest and pelvis, the strongest parts of the human body. It also protects the passengers from being thrown out of the vehicle or from hitting the dashboard and windshield.

Finally, seatbelts stop passengers from hitting other passengers in the car.

Seat belt laws in the Philippines

If it’s that important, then why don't many wear seatbelts?

That’s because they have the mindset that wearing a seat belt is unnecessary and inconvenient. They also believe that wearing seatbelts limits their movement in the car.

Indeed, the Philippines has numerous laws related to seat belt use, which include hefty fines for violators. Here’s a rundown of what they are:

1. Republic Act 8750

Also known as the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999, Republic Act 8750 requires both drivers and passengers of private and public vehicles to use and wear seat belts when inside the car, with the engine running, on any street, road, and highway.

Under the law, both the front and rear-seat passengers of private vehicles are required to wear their seat belts at all times.

For public vehicles, the driver is required to inform his or her front passengers to secure their belts upon boarding the vehicle. Should the passenger refuse, he or she should not be allowed to board the vehicle.

For not wearing a seat belt, private vehicle drivers will pay the following fines:  

  • P100 to P1,000 for the first offense
  • P200 to P2,000 for the second offense
  • P500 to P5,000 for the third and succeeding offenses

The law stipulates that aside from the payment of fine, the driver’s license of the violator will be suspended for one week for the third and succeeding offense.

For drivers of public utility vehicles, the penalties are stiffer as both the driver and the operator will be fined P300 to P3,000 for every violation.

2. Republic Act 11229

Republic Act 11229 or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act requires the use of child restraint systems (CRS) or car seats while transporting young passengers in private motor vehicles.

Signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019, it covers children who are under 13 years old and/or shorter than 4’11.”

Moreover, the law allows only passengers who are 13 years old and above to use the front passenger seat. It also punishes drivers who leave children in a car unaccompanied.

R.A. 11229 is the government’s response to the call of the World Health Organization in preventing what the agency calls “top killer of people aged 5 to 29” – road crashes. The Philippine Statistics Authority said 1,226 children aged 14 and below were killed in road crashes in 2017.  

According to the WHO, child restraint systems are highly effective in reducing injuries and death to child occupants, particularly those who are under four years old.

These help keep the child in the vehicle and prevent them from hitting the vehicle interior. In addition, it directs the forces to the strongest parts of the body and distributes the force over a wide area. Moreover, it protects the head, neck, brain and spinal cord.

Violators of R.A. 11229 face harsher penalties. These include:

  • P1,000 for first offense
  • P2,000 for second offense
  • P5,000 and one-year driver’s license suspension for the third and succeeding offenses

The only exception is when the child is involved in a medical emergency or has a disability that makes use of CRS hazardous. However, this requires a certification from a doctor.

These seat belt laws are not in place to punish drivers, but to encourage them to consider the safety of their passengers. Following traffic laws is also the responsibility of every driver.