Will your baby be safe on that summer road trip?

It’s summer once again. But this is no ordinary summer. It is the first summer after two long years of being locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And for sure, all Filipino families are already planning a Holy Week or a summer road trip.

For families with babies or very young children, the road trip will most likely be the first time that they will have their cutie passenger on board. And the Land Transportation Office (LTO) advises these families to invest in a child car seat to ensure the baby’s safety.

“You cannot put a price on the life of our children,” said Roberto Valera, Deputy Director for Law Enforcement of the Land Transportation Office. “We must always think of the welfare of everybody. Bigyan natin ito ng kahalagahan. Bumili tayo ng child car seat na akma sa weight, sa size, at edad ng mga bata.” (Let us give importance to this. Let us buy a child car seat that is appropriate to your child’s weight, size, and age.)

In case you missed it, it was February 2021 when the government introduced Republic Act 11229 or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act which seeks to bring down the numbers of children who die in motor vehicle crashes by mandating the use of child safety seats in private motor vehicles.

Although the full implementation of the law has been put on hold so as not to become an added financial burden to parents while they were coping with the challenges of the pandemic, Valera said the relaxing of lockdowns and the resurgence of road trips should prompt parents to consider the safety of their children.

According to Philippine Statistics Authority estimates from 2017, an average of three children die in the Philippines each day due to road crashes. This harrowing fact is sadly oftentimes ignored by families, until that one split second where they lose their precious child. And then their point of view suddenly changes, as in the case of the De Grano family from Tanauan, Batangas.

Not too long ago, Harlene de Grano went out for an errand with her baby in her arms. It was her brother Howell who drove their car as her husband Jerwin was abroad working in a cruise ship.

While travelling on the STAR tollway, Harlene’s 10-month old baby cried for milk. Harlene carefully sat her baby down beside her to get a feeding bottle from a bag, when suddenly, a car rammed them from the front.

Bigla na lang may sasakyan na sumulpot sa harap namin. Hindi ko na alam ang mga sumunod na nangyari. Pagmulat ko, nasa ospital na kami (A vehicle suddenly came hurtling toward us. I didn’t know anymore what happened next. When I regained consciousness, we were already at a hospital.),” recalls Harlene.

While doctors tended to her injuries, it was then that they told Harlene that her baby did not make it. The baby girl’s tiny body was simply too fragile to survive the crash.

“Sa isang iglap lang, bigla na lang nawala ang baby ko. (In one instant, my baby was gone.),” recalls Harlene who continues to grieve even after several years.  “Hindi ko pa rin mapigilang umiyak. Hanggang ngayon sobrang sakit pa din. (I could not help crying, trying to recall what happened. It still hurts so much.)”

The vehicle that caused the crash did not have a driver. It was a car being towed by a truck ahead of the De Granos’, and it came loose and rammed their car from the front. It was a freak accident that nobody could have predicted.

LTO’s Valera said, however, that even though accidents are out of anyone’s control, the death of child could have been prevented if the baby was sitting on a child seat. Yet he admits that a topic like this is very hard to discuss, especially with parents.

“Hindi kasi normal na namamatayan ng anak. Ang anak ang inaasahan na maglilibing sa mga magulang. Kaya hindi natin pinag-iisipan na puwedeng mamatay ang mga bata,” (It is not normal for a parent to lose a child. What is expected is for the child to bury his parents. That is why we seldom think about the possibility of a child dying), he said.

The full implementation of the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act is still on hold, but Valera encourages parents to study for themselves the importance of investing in a child car seat.

Iniingatan natin ang mahalaga sa atin (We protect what we consider important to us),” he stressed.

For more information on child vehicle safety, check out the Facebook page of Buckle Up Kids PH.

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