The days of placing a child on a parent's lap will soon be over. Come February 2, 2021, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) will implement Republic Act 11229. That's the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act of 2020, meaning those who ferry children regularly must have a child restraint system (CRS) at the back seat.

But before you rush out to the nearest department store, the LTO is giving a grace period first. The agency is giving the public three to six months to get their CRS before they start apprehending violators.

“Enforcement is not only about apprehension—it also covers information dissemination as well as warnings. Instead of issuing a TOP (temporary operator’s permit) or a show cause order, we’ll be in warning mode as well as information dissemination,” said Roberto Valera, deputy director of the LTO.

RA 11229 states that children twelve years old and below are required to use child seats. That said, there is an exemption for children above 4'11”. Not only that, the CRS must be age, height, and weight appropriate for the child. You can't just pluck any CRS and secure your child in one.

Other things you need to know? The child seat must be accredited by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). It should adhere to the standards found in United Nations Regulations 44 and 149 that, in turn, come with the Philippine Standards mark or an Import Clearance Certificate.

But what if you already have a child seat before the rule's implementation? You might have to get those checked by the LTO for certification. “We’ll come up with a certificate that the car seat has been inspected and even though it was purchased prior to the effectivity of the law, it passes our inspection department so it will be allowed to be used,” said Valera.

And now, for the penalties. It's PHP 1,000 for the first offense, PHP 2,000 for the second offense, and PHP 5,000 and a one-year suspension of the driver's license for the third and succeeding offenses. Violations include failure to secure a child properly in the CRS, using inappropriately-sized CRS, using expired or substandard CRS, and letting a child sit in the front seat. Yes, the LTO would like to remind the public that children twelve years old and below are not allowed to sit in front.

To parents out there, it's time to save up and get one or two child seats for your car. Even though the LTO won't hand out fines yet. Of course, that doesn't mean you should buy these seats at the last minute. It's best to have them ready before its full enforcement before everyone starts panic-buying and we suffer a shortage of child seat stocks.