ABU DHABI // Al Corniche Hospital has announced it will begin selling child car seats to new parents as they leave with their newborns. Amira Wali, the hospital's public health manager, said the hospital wanted to encourage more parents to install the seats, which have been proven to greatly reduce child mortality in car crashes. "We see new mothers leaving our hospital with their babies in their lap in the passenger seat and any sort of accident will automatically be fatal," said Ms Wali, whose hospital delivers about 40 per cent of babies born in the capital. "We have to encourage parents to take car safety seriously for their children."
The sales will be conducted by a new car safety centre the hospital plans on establishing in April. The centre will also show parents how to properly install the devices. Prior to the launch of the centre, the hospital will conduct an awareness campaign to promote child car safety. Many parents are apparently aware that unrestrained children face a much higher risk of serious injury in a car accidents, but few have had car seats fitted. Sara Jasim, 29, said when her husband drove, she usually held their daughter, aged three, on her lap. At other times, she said, her daughter sat in the back with her six-year-old son. "I make them sit together in the back seat, and sometimes I even put the seat belt on for her. I know what a car seat is, but I haven't got one yet. "I don't know why we didn't buy one, but I know it is good to have it. If I start driving I will buy one."
Heba Mahmoud, 24, an Egyptian mother who works at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said when her husband drove, she usually sat in the back holding her one-year-old son in her arms. "My husband and I never thought of getting a car seat. I have heard about it but never thought of buying it," she said. "I wear the seat belt while I hold him, but he does not have any belt. I think I will buy one now." A few parents have already invested in car seats. "My daughter is now nine months old. Earlier when I was driving, my wife would sit with her in the back and when she started driving I would hold her," said Vishal Sood, 33, a business manager for an IT firm in Abu Dhabi. "But around a month ago we bought a car seat. The first experience has not been very pleasant as my daughter keeps trying to jump out of it. She is alright only if her elder sister sits with her in the back. "We have no other option but to use the car seat now because it's safer and my wife and I can also sit together in the front without worrying." The Government plans to make car seats for newborns and young children mandatory, but no deadline has been set. Dr Oliver Harrison, the head of public health and policy at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi, said: "We need hospitals and other organisations to drive the implementation of these programmes." Similar calls for such measures have been made in other countries. "We have been advocating the use of child safety seats in Oman since 2004," said Bernadette Bhacker, a Dubai-based road safety campaigner and the director of the Omani non-governmental organisation, Sustainability. "Unfortunately, so far, there have been no government-sponsored or supported campaigns on the issue, so we are facing an uphill struggle." She said young children were particularly at risk if not properly restrained while travelling in vehicles. "When a car brakes, anything that is loose inside will continue to travel forward at the speed before impact. "We have so many cases of children being thrown from vehicles or underneath seats if they are in the back or thrown through the windscreen," she said. email@example.com * With additional reporting by Deepthi Unnikrishnan