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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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FIRING LINE: Good law, bad timing

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The intention of the Child Car Seat Law is beyond question. If anybody wants to argue a child’s safety inside a vehicle against road crash statistics, then be my guest. Proponents of the law say that road crashes are the second leading cause of death in Filipino children aged 0-17.

Solidly as that premise for enforcing the law is planted, it is easy to understand public resistance to new regulations that entail cost — between P5,000 and P25,000 per child car seat — and to which one’s violation carries a penalty of P5,000 per count. Woe to parents with three kids under 12 in the car.

As I had expected, its implementation last week would be aborted and wisely set back six months down the year to August. Department of Transportation officials cited the need to launch its information campaign to ramp up awareness and acceptance among motorists and educate traffic enforcers on the implementing rules and regulations.

On the other hand, several members of the Senate where the law was cooked up seem to be second-thinking even implementing the law at all. Perhaps, the idea of burdening the public further with revenue-generating regulations amid an unprecedented health crisis that has crashed the economy and brought forth a recession has unsettled them.

Next to that, it is gut-wrenching for any senator who voted in favor of that law to think that elections are coming up next year. Certainly, if JV Ejercito plans to run for a Senate seat in 2022, coming out as the author of the Child Car Seat Law wouldn’t be so cool in his campaign brochure.

The timing is just off, as the big man in Malacanang points out. So, unless our economy resurrects from six-feet-under by August or COVID-19 is bagged, tied up, and ditched in the Black Hole, this good law may not stand a chance in the streets. I say “good law” because it adheres to sound international road safety policies — shared by the United Nations and the World Health Organization — that would certainly save lives from predictable and preventable accidents.

*              *              *

The problem is, crafting of laws in our country can sometimes be so patterned after Western civilizations that they lose their practical application in the domestic setting. While the number of child deaths in road crashes presents shocking national statistics, do these numbers weigh heavily on car occupants or pedestrians or passengers of motorcycles, tricycles, and other crazy colorum-type modes of public transportation like roofs of jeepneys, planks balanced on motorbikes (habal-habal), or the back of tricycles and pick-up trucks? Are we doing enough to stop those?

Along that line, there is a host of identifiable hypocrisies in our transportation regulations, especially those imposed on the premise of public safety.

For example, how come jeepneys are required to have seatbelts for front-seat passengers but none for the 20 or so occupants inside it, however dilapidated that recklessly moving smoke-belcher of a coffin might be?

Then, notice the second front-seat passenger exposed to greater danger because, first, the front seat is not designed for two people; second, it doesn’t have a door but a footrest literally outside the vehicle. No one gets fined for any of that.

So, if a child cannot ride in their family car, with the safest driver on the wheel — his or her parents — because there’s no booster seat, shall safety dictate that they take a jeepney or an overloaded bus from here to there as a better option? Obviously, there are condescending holes to that argument, but ain’t that the reality? There’s no P5,000 penalty for that as long as they keep their face masks and face shields on.

Now, that can’t be funny. But that clown in the LTO (who said he was just joking when he advised families who can’t fit in more than two booster seats for their kids in their car to buy a bigger one) wasn’t funny either.

*              *              *

SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at https://thephilbiznews.com

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