ABU DHABI // Keeping your children safe on the roads begins at home, parents have been told.
Children should be taught basic road-safety rules and parents should closely supervise them at all times to prevent road traffic deaths, experts say.
“Young children have a false sense of belief that they are safe at all times,” said Khaled Al Mansoori, vice chief executive at the Emirates Driving Company.
“Our youth need to be educated and taught at school that road safety begins in their homes.”
A comprehensive traffic education curriculum will benefit children more when it is reinforced at home and parents provide positive role models, said Thomas Edelmann, the founder of the website Road Safety UAE.
“Parents must be constantly aware, alert and considerate when there is even a remote possibility of kids being around cars, such as in shopping malls, in residential areas, around schools and parks, among others,” he said.
Roshanara Sait, a road-safety expert in Dubai, said three main things were needed to ensure children’s safety on the road: supervision, education and discipline.
“A toddler should be supervised at all times and should be taught from a very young age the basic rules of road safety and be made aware of the dangers involved,” she said.
Glenn Havinoviski, a transport expert in Abu Dhabi, said there was less direct parental supervision of children in the UAE than in other countries.
“You can see it in town, and you can even see it at restaurants,” he said. “From a transport perspective, many drivers often do not think about what is in front or behind them.”
But Simon Labbett, regional director of the UK-based consultancy Transport Research Laboratory, said it was not just an awareness of children being in and around cars that should be considered.
“We also need to think about how we can keep our children safe when they are in a vehicle,” he said. “Many lives are needlessly lost each year because parents do not use appropriate child restraints.”
The Health Authority Abu Dhabi has run a campaign to raise awareness on the risks of children in vehicles but the programme needs to expand, he said.
The UAE, he said, does not have legislation in place requiring the use of seatbelts in the rear of vehicles and child car seats, a recommendation made by the World Health Organisation in their Decade for Action.
Their comments follow the latest case in the UAE of an 18-month-old Emirati boy who died when his uncle backed over him in Al Ain.
Last month, a four-year-old girl in Sharjah was hit by her father’s car when he backed over her. In a separate incident in the emirate, a one year-old boy was killed when his uncle ran him over.
“It only takes a second for a child to unknowingly step into danger,” Mr Labbett said. “When someone is leaving, ensure you know where the children are and that they have not put themselves in harm’s way.”
In 2013, 37 children died in Sharjah after being run over. In most cases, young children were accidentally run over by parents or other relatives, police said.
With the larger SUVs being popular in the UAE, it is even harder to see people or obstacles around or behind them.
“The main problem is blind spots and in particular rear vision,” said Dino Kalivas, director of training at Emirates Driving Company.
“Any person who is shorter than the height of the rear window is seriously at risk as they cannot be seen. Unless the vehicle is fitted with a reverse camera and the driver is observing all mirrors and cameras are operating, the child cannot be seen.”
Mr Labbett said large vehicles tended to have more blind spots and were easier for children to get behind unseen.
Blacked out car windows – tinted windows in excess of the legal 30 per cent – aggravate the situation.
“Anything that reduces the available light entering a vehicle, particularly at night, is not a sensible thing to promote for road safety,” Mr Labbett said.
“That is why the Government has made the use of heavily tinted windows illegal. Despite the law being in place it is surprising to see so many vehicles operating that are clearly not complying with the legislation and potentially poses a risk to users and others.”