Too Many Filipinos Don’t Wear Their Seatbelts
Seatbelts save lives; that’s a fact. It saves lives every day, protecting vehicle occupants from collision, ejection, g-forces, injury, and even death. The importance of seatbelts to vehicle safety is practically common knowledge, one would be inclined to believe that drivers and passengers alike would wear them religiously. And yet,here in the Philippines, the Seatbelt Law is the most violated rule of the road.
According to Atty. Roberto Valera, head of the traffic safety department at the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the local seatbelt law (Republic Act 8750, otherwise known as the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999), was the country’s most violated traffic law for 2016.
Reasons are unacceptable
When asked to give their reason for not wearing their seatbelts, some drivers say that they are only traveling short a distance. Some say that they simply forgot. Others find it uncomfortable, while there are those who think it’s unnecessary because their car has airbags. However, these reasons have no merit under the seatbelt law, because the law compels all “motorists of private and public vehicles to use seatbelt devices.”
Failure to wear the prescribed seatbelt device means a fine of P1,000, P2,000, and P5,000 for the first, second, and third offenses, respectively. From the third offense onward, the driver’s license will also be suspended for one week starting on the day the fine is paid.
Drivers who allow a child younger than seven years old to sit on the front passenger seat will also face the same fines.
Meanwhile, drivers of public utility vehicles (PUVs) face stiffer penalties. For every violation, both the driver and operator are liable to pay a P3,000 fine.
Survey statistics show that in 2010, 19.58 percent of injured car occupants wore their seatbelts at the time of their road accident. A small number to be sure, but what’s alarming is that instead of improving, that number fell to a measly 2.91 percent last year. Clearly, ads and campaigns that aimed to raise awareness regarding the wearing of seatbelts have not worked.
Valera cites two reasons for the steep drop–first is that many people are not aware of the dangers of not wearing their seatbelt. Second is that they also do not know what the law stipulates. Worse, they also do not know that the seatbelt law requires EVERYONE in the car–rear passengers included–to buckle up.
According to Atty. Valera, the LTO managed to collect P80 million in fines from seatbelt violations last year. Valera said they remitted the money to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The LTO hopes to use some of the money from the collected fines for a seatbelt-focused information campaign for the public.
“We want people to know that wearing a seatbelt is not only a requirement of the law,” said Atty. Valera. “We are advocating seatbelt wearing to protect you.”