When six-year-old Julio Baltasar was injured in a car crash in 2014, Pele Escueta had just begun his life. The two had never crossed paths before, yet somehow their lives are linked together. In July 2017, the connection became clear: their survival from car accidents and its simple prevention unified their stories.
Dinna Dayao, a road safety advocate and recipient of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant, recounted the stories of the two kids during a press conference hosted by the nongovernment organization Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS, Inc.) on Wednesday.
“In July 2017, Pele was in his parents’ SUV when a van, whose driver had fallen asleep, rammed into their car,” Dayao said.
Pele’s parents are singers Jolina Magdangal and Mark Escueta.
“In Julio’s case, the boy was being driven to his preschool in the family sedan in 2014, when the driver nodded off at the wheel. The car, which witnesses said was going at 60 kilometers per hour, hit a vehicle. The car was a total wreck; Julio, then 3 years old, was seriously hurt,” said Dayao.
She added that Julio’s upper front teeth were forced into his gums and was needed to be surgically extracted.
Julio’s mother, Kelly, said they were not aware that they could have prevented the damage to their child if only they had a child restraint device.
‘Child restraints can save lives’
Dayao said that Pele was not injured and “did not even cry” after the accident because his family had child seats.
“Your car has insurance which you pay annually. A car seat can be your child’s additional ‘insurance,’ and it’s a one-time expense. What’s more important, your child or your money?” Mark Escueta told Dayao.
Child seats are not expensive and are within reach of many drivers, according to Dayao.
“We talked to 1,000 drivers in Metro Manila and they said they are willing to spend P1,000 up to P5,000 for child restraints,” she said.
Compared to the expense the family could incur from the medical expenses, Dayao said child restraints are indeed “cheaper.”
“Think of how much you could save in terms of the trauma to your child, in terms of hospital expenses,” said Dayao.
“Julio’s parents spent P80,000 with insurance for his three-day stay in the hospital. They could have bought eight child restraints with that amount,” she added.
A professor from the Ateneo de Manila University Law School pointed out that the problem is the lack of legislation requiring private automobiles to provide child restraints.
“What is lacking is a law mandating the use of child restraints or more commonly known as child car seats,” Jason Salvador from Ateneo Law School said.
IDEALS, Inc. also said studies proved that the use of car seats reduces the likelihood of a fatal crash by “70 percent among infants, 54 to 80 percent among young children, and by 90 percent for those who use rear facing restraints for babies and infants.”
Salvador added that at present, there are two measures on child restraints pending before the House of Representatives and the Senate.
BUHAY Partylist representative Michael Velarde Jr. filed House Bill 1319 or the Child Restraint Act and is currently being deliberated in the Committee on transportation headed by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, Salvador said.
In the Senate meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito proposed the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act of 2017.
An expert from the World Health Organization, meanwhile, said that apart from the legislation, proper implementation should also be ensured.
“It is a health issue that can be addressed by legislation and proper implementation. The true burden here is on the victims,” Dr. Benjamin Lane said.
“Car accidents are preventable. And with the use of child restraints, we can save more lives,” he added. JE