DUBAI // A seat-belt campaign was launched yesterday to reduce the number of children who die in car crashes. Families across the UAE are to be targeted by the Safe Kids Buckle Up campaign through a series of advertisements. They will be encouraged to strap their children into child seats in the back of their car for all journeys, no matter how short.
From 2000 to 2006, 460 children aged under 14 died in car crashes, according to figures collated by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Roadway Transport and Traffic Research Centre, and two thirds of those killed were under four. The campaign, which will run for 10 years, is an initiative of Safe Kids Worldwide, an American organisation, in partnership with the UAE National Transport Authority and Unicef.
The UAE is the first country in the region to launch a Safe Kids Worldwide campaign. They also operate in Europe and North America. The Safe Kids Buckle Up programme is to raise awareness and understanding of the issue surrounding child passenger safety and will educate parents on the dangers of leaving children unrestrained in cars. Safe Kids Worldwide has cut child road deaths in other countries by up to 90 per cent and hopes to reduce the figure by 70 per cent in the UAE. The television campaign, which starts on Friday, will use the theme: "If you really want to hold on to them, let them go and strap them in." Many mothers hold their children in cars, sometimes even while driving.
The non-governmental organisation has worked to cut the number of child deaths in 16 countries. David Bennett, chief advancement officer of Safe Kids Worldwide, said car crashes were the number one killer of children in the UAE. "It is a growing threat to children. The UAE is the first in so many great feats but we don't want it to be first for highest death rate," he said. Child seats save lives and cut the rate of death by 40 per cent, he said. "I can't think of anything else that can cut the death rate so quickly."
Mr Bennett said it was more than a television campaign. "We have to work with the police to enforce it and religious leaders to talk about it," he said. He said the police had already made significant inroads by implementing the black points system on driving licences, but the battle lay ahead in terms of educating people in the UAE. "A lot of expatriates who come here bring their own child car seat because they are so expensive. But when we went to Brazil, local companies started to manufacture more affordable seats that sold there for $45," he said.
Ebtisam al Kaaiti, of the UAE National Transport Authority, said it was important for her organisation to reach the goal of safety. "It is one of the main problems we face economically and socially." Demonstrations will be held on how to correctly install and buckle up child seats during a roadshow that will visit Ibn Battuta Mall from Nov 6 to 8, the Burjaman from Nov 12 to 15 and the new Dubai Mall from Nov 23 to 30.
A woman who has two children, who did not wish to be named, said she brought her child seat from the UK. "We moved here a year ago and I was horrified to see children jumping around on the back seats of a car that was travelling over 120kph. There is sometimes absolutely no respect," she said. "I've had a car seat for my two children and the ones I got can be moved from different cars. I don't need any training to put them in. But I would not leave the house without them and the chairs are just a normal part of motherhood, the same way as buying nappies. But this campaign, I think it is a really good idea and it is never too late," she said.