MANILA, Philippines – Every year since 2010, more than 8,000 Filipinos have lost their lives due to road crashes. Among those at risk are children aged 14 years and below.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that an average of 671 Filipino children died every year from 2006 to 2014, with those 5-9 years old, and 10-14 years old, ending up the most vulnerable. (READ: IN NUMBERS: Road crash incidents in the Philippines)
Road crash injuries are also among the top causes of death for children, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
As the Philippines marks National Safe Kids Week this third week of June, advocates are calling for stronger government and civil society action to protect children’s lives on the road. (READ: Road safety advocates seek passage of child restraint bill)
While the seat belt law protects children by banning them from sitting in the front seat of the vehicle, current road safety laws lack another layer of protection: requiring the use of child safety seats in motor vehicles. (READ: What laws help keep road users safe in the Philippines?)
What are child safety seats?
Child safety seats are designed to protect infants and young children from fatal injuries in the event of a crash. The seats are specially built according to a child’s size and weight.
They work by distributing the impact of the crash to the strongest parts of the child’s body. They also prevent the child from being ejected out of the vehicle, or colliding with the interior of the vehicle.
These child seats can only help reduce injuries during minor circumstances, such as a car’s abrupt halt or an unexpected door opening while the vehicle is moving.
To be effective, the seats must be appropriate to the child’s weight and must be properly fitted inside the vehicle.
What are the different types of child safety seats?
During the first few months of a child’s life, their body structure is still fragile and a small amount of force may cause severe damage.
A rear-facing child seat provides the best protection for infants. This type of safety seat is smaller, and is usually outfitted with a carrying handle and detachable base.
Some models also have a head support system to support the infant’s head and stop it from falling side to side.
Older children can use safety seats that can either be forward-facing or rear-facing. Compared to the infant child seats, these seats don’t have carrying handles, and are designed to be fixed onto the car. Harness straps keep the child in place and help spread the crash forces.
Children can use these seats until their weight exceeds 18 kg, or until they grow too tall for the harness.
Once they have outgrown these, the safety seats can be replaced with a bigger model that makes use of the adult seat belt in the car.
Booster seats are for children who don’t fit on the child safety seats, but are still too small for the adult seat belt. These seats are designed for children weighing between 15 kg to 25 kg.
These seats raise the child’s sitting position so that the adult seat belt is positioned at a safe area – over the bony areas of the shoulder rather than the neck, and low across the pelvis.
Are these effective?
According to the WHO, sitting in the back seat is the safest position for children inside a vehicle.
Without a safety seat, children sitting in the rear already have a 25% lower risk of being injured. But with child safety seats added as an extra layer of protection, the risk becomes 15% lower than children sitting in the front with safety seats.
The effectiveness of safety seats also varies depending on the type of seat used.
Children up to 4 years old have a 50% lower risk of injury in a forward-facing car seat, compared to 80% in a rear-facing child seat. In contrast, if they use an adult seat belt, the injury reduction is only 32%.– Jorilyn Gaa / Rappler.com
Jorilyn Gaa is a Rappler intern