x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Air Bag: Businesses step up to boost child safety in cars

Companies across the UAE are making a difference when it comes to using proper child seats and restraints.

Are you part of the 99 per cent?

You know, the thing they're all talking about at the Occupy Movement protests around the world. There's been a large groundswell of public distaste and discord towards the big banks and large conglomerations lately, and for many reasons I can firmly get behind - my savings are miniscule enough without another hand in my pocket from the banks. Most recently, protesters have been building igloos in Davos, Switzerland, to keep warm outside the World Economic Forum.

You won't see too many of those igloos here in the UAE, for various reasons. But no matter your views, and before you paint every large company with the same brush, I'm going to point out some of the good a few firms have done right in your own backyard. And possibly in the back seat of your own car.

This week, The National ran an article about the rise in child seat use among parents here in the UAE. In a YouGov Siraj poll, it was found that, of young parents, 71 per cent said they use child seats in their cars; 50 per cent of older parents responded that they use car seats.

Those numbers are still not acceptable, but they are a far, far cry from a poll taken in 2008, which found that just two per cent of the population here used child seats. It looks like the message on keeping kids safe in cars is slowly getting through.

And how did that happen? Government laws and police enforcement, which are absolutely necessary in bringing change, have been delayed and not very effective. But some car companies, among others here in the UAE, have taken up the mantle of trying to get the message across to parents.

General Motors has been active in the cause in the last few years. It has donated child seats to hospitals and, most recently, Chevrolet has sponsored an awareness campaign called "Buckle up in the back", which was established by Dubai resident Lesley Cully. The campaign travels to schools across the Emirates to educate teachers, parents and children about the importance of proper restraint in cars.

BMW has been active, as well, by sponsoring various awareness campaigns and giving away free car seats at various events across the region with its "Road Safety Campaign".

Even the child clothing store BabyShop has contributed to the cause by discounting its car seats by 25 per cent for a period, as well as donating child seats to the RTA for its taxis.

The rise in child seat use here is very encouraging, but much more has yet to be done. By findings from the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) in 2009, child seats can reduce accident deaths by 50 to 75 per cent. Every parent should have them in their car, and with the good work from GM, BMW, BabyShop and others in the UAE, hopefully more large companies will be inspired to help make this happen. And that's a cause we can all get behind.