Did you know that the Philippines has a seat belt law? And that there actually is a penalty for violation of it?
According to Republic Act No. 8750, also known as the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999: “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.” This means that no driver has any valid excuse to stop using a seat belt while on the road.
The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) also has set a No Seat Belt penalty, with meager fines of P1,000 on the first offense and P2,000 on the second offense. On the third offense, you get a P5,000 fine and have your license suspended for one week.
Despite the Seat Belts Use Act and the fines imposed by the MMDA, many people don’t really bother to buckle up. After all, have you ever heard someone you know flagged by traffic constables for this violation?
But even if the law isn’t as strict as it should be, wearing a seat belt is an important part of safe and responsible driving. Whether you’re the driver, shotgun rider, or a backseat buddies, it’s time to look hard into the culture that overlooks the importance of strapping in.
In a report published by Vera Files, the failure to wear seatbelts is the most violated traffic rule in the country. Despite higher penalties imposed on the failure to wear seatbelts—which was a quantum leap from P250, P500, and P1,000 previously billed from seatbelt law offenders—the government still collected only around P80 million in seatbelt violations penalties.
The Vera Files report said that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) recorded almost 100,000 cases of the said rule. However, seatbelt violations were never even mentioned in some reports, such as the MMDAs list of top violations in the country. In their data, the violation with the highest number of perpetrators is disregard for traffic signs, with a measly penalty fee of P150 for all offenses.
And it’s not just the negligence that prevents people from wearing seatbelts. Sometimes, people proactively do things just to avoid buckling up. Aside from locking the seatbelt and tucking the strap on at the back of the chair, devices that bypass seatbelt alarms are also available now for a low price. For only P250, a person can buy two-piece seatbelt alarm stopper.
Buckle up for safety
Ever since former Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin worked on the three-point safety belt, millions of lives have been saved from sudden death due to a car crash. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), seatbelts can reduce the risk of fatality on front-seat passengers by up to 50 percent and up to 75 percent on rear-seat passengers. In addition, the use of child restraints instead of allowing a child below six to sit in the front passenger seat will improve their chances of survival by up to 80 percent.
Almost all modern cars are now equipped with airbags; the more luxurious models are now coming out with more than just frontal airbags. While airbags were initially designed to supplant the advantages of seatbelts, they now work hand-in-hand in preventing loss of lives due to car accidents.
From preventing people to be ejected during a high-speed car crash to saving them from head trauma or neck breakage due to whiplash, airbags will keep you alive—as long as you’re buckled up.
“Analysis of deaths involving airbags in the United States showed that nearly all of the people who have died from air bag-related injuries were either unrestrained or improperly restrained,” says a World Health Organization paper. “Most of the deaths have been to children and adults of small stature. Airbags are a passive restraint system, deploying automatically in some types of crashes.”
If a person is not buckled up, his body will still be hurled by the force towards the front side of the car—and the airbag may do little or nothing at all if there is no restraint involved in the form of a seatbelt.
While safety is inarguably the main reason why you should wear a seatbelt, you should also keep in mind that failure to wear seatbelts can be considered as recklessness, which in turn will increase your risk in getting in a car accident.
Getting involved in a car crash while not wearing a seatbelt can become problematic especially when you file a claim on your car insurance. You don’t want trouble filing for claim once you badly need it, after all, right?
Other Sources: The Philippine Star, Carmudi, Rappler, MMDA, World Health Organization