x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Child safety not in vogue

My worry quickly escalates to sheer horror when I observe little arms popping out of car windows or innocent heads peering out of sunroofs of fast-moving vehicles.

Children are our promise of a future. I enjoy watching children play; they are adorable and so filled with energy and curiosity. But all that cuteness turns into worry as I see kids jungle-gym in the back seat of cars flying down the UAE roads at high speeds. Worry quickly escalates to sheer horror when I observe little arms popping out of car windows or innocent heads peering out of sunroofs of fast-moving vehicles.

I wonder whether these parents stop to think. Don't they think that the seatbelts they are forced to wear would not benefit their children as well? It is pretty well known that standard car seatbelts do not fit children, so surely they are aware that there is a whole world of products out there aimed at keeping kids safe in cars. Perhaps mothercare is not fitting the bill here. Perhaps we need to take a new approach to getting kids buckled up in car seats. Would it be frivolous to suggest appealing to the love of fashion - even though this sounds crazy - that is so prevalent here?

The other day, I walked into Fendi at Marina Mall. A happy couple looked on smugly as a shop assistant morphed their regular stroller into a magnificent Fendi adverti-sing extravaganza. The stroller was festooned with Fendi. The products were sold on the spot. May be Fendi could smack a one-dirham-a-day rental fee on such customised strollers, rather like renting those ad-clad vehicles in Dubai. I wonder if Fendi or Chanel would consider snazzing out child car seats especially designed for the UAE market. Perhaps this would get people here to buckle up their kids in safety seats. There is a lack of regulation stipulating how children should travel in vehicles, besides the law that states no kids under the age of 10 should travel in the front seat of a car. So appealing to the collective sense of style maybe the way to go about it.

Parents would surely prefer their children to be victims of fashion rather than victims of road accidents. Oddly enough, when you see kids spinning around in malls in souped-up prams, they are often fully strapped in. As a friend of mine pointed out, the prospect of a child falling a few inches onto the mall floor seems to terrify parents more than that of losing kids, who are unrestrained, as they stick their arms out of car windows and happily wave at the people in the next lane. I fail to see the logic.

My dear four-year-old niece still travels in her child seat, as the laws in my home country have her strapped in there until she turns eight. Failure to comply with this law will lead to nasty fines. Come to think of it, last I checked, every person seated in a car is now forced, by law, to wear a seatbelt at all times in most European countries. As adorable as children are and as much as I enjoy watching them mess about and be kids, the only urge I have when I see a child in a car next to me tumble to the floor when his or her vehicle takes off from the lights is to roll my window down, shout at the parents and offer to transport their children for them - free of charge. Just hand them over, please. Hey, I even know which child safety seat suits my Toyota Yaris best, minus all those blinding Fendi logos. psantos@thenational.ae