x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Child safety seats could be made compulsory

The Government is considering making compulsory the use of child safety seats in vehicles.

Unbuckled children leave Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi in the back of their parents' car.
Unbuckled children leave Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi in the back of their parents' car.

The Government is considering making compulsory the use of child safety seats in vehicles, a transport official revealed. "We are studying it now, whether it can work in the UAE or cannot work, and what the advantages of it are," Ebitsam al Kaaiti, a spokeswoman for the National Transport Authority (NTA), said after a presentation on seat-belt use at the Roadex-Railex Conference in Abu Dhabi. She added: "The study is still under way. It is part of our strategic plan to reduce the number of deaths in the UAE." From 2000 to 2006, 460 children aged under 14 died in car crashes, according to figures collated by the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences and Roadway Transportation & Traffic Safety Research Center. Two-thirds of those killed were aged under four. The researchers also found that between 2005-2007 in the Al Ain regional trauma centre, no child under the age of 14 who was killed or injured in a crash was reported to have been restrained. According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, properly installed child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injuries by 71 per cent for infants and 54 per cent for toddlers. Dr Joseph Manna, the chairman of the emergency department at Tawam Hospital in Al Ain, said lives could have been saved if child safety seats were more common. "Yes, we have had children die in accidents. Are they restrained? Absolutely not," he said. "It is the saddest thing in the world when a child dies. "When they are thrown out of a car, of course a restraint would have made a difference. "There is never any doubt in my mind, if they were restrained they would not have been crushed by the car or thrown out. "Children are projectiles. In a car there is nothing to hold them back if they are not restrained. When they are injured they are injured in a very bad way. "The statistics say that when you are restrained you are more likely to survive a car accident. Period. "In the majority of times it minimises the injury, length of hospital stay, and the chance of dying. You cannot argue with the statistics." Brig Mohammed Saif al Zafeen, the director of the traffic department at Dubai Police, said child safety seats would save lives, and that laws making their use compulsory should have been in place years ago. "Children face serious dangers being in a vehicle," Brig Zafeen said. "With the impact of a sudden stop, it is a flashing second and it would nearly surely result in the child's death. "It should have been implemented a long time ago. Using a seat belt or having your child secured in a child's seat will help hold them in place and keep them in a secure position in the case of an impact or if the car flips. It will prevent them from being thrown out of the car and will minimise injuries." Brig Zafeen said accurate numbers of children killed in road accidents this year are not yet available but he believed that increased caution by parents had led to a reduction in recent years. Dr Taiseer Atrak, the chairman of the paediatric department at Al Mafraq Hospital, said it was impossible to describe what it is like to treat a child who has been involved in a road accident. This year the hospital launched its Kids in Safety Seats campaign, giving free safety seats to the families of babies born in the hospital. "We have a baby right now who was not in a car seat and went flying all over the car and now has severe head trauma," Dr Atrak said. "This is not exceptional. "I think if more parents used car seats we could cut the number of deaths by two-thirds." Dr Atrak said child trauma cases were probably the most difficult for any doctor. "It hurts every time you see a child. In a lot of cases the parents could have done something." Despite welcoming the call to create a federal law, he said it would make no difference if people do not obey it. "Parents need to be educated; it is as simple as that. It will not make a difference otherwise." There are no laws requiring children to use safety seats. Allowing children under the age of 10 to sit in the front seat of a vehicle carries a Dh400 fine and four demerit points. Delegates at the Roadex-Railex Conference were told that many parents do not put their children in car seats. Some mothers carry small children in their lap in the front while others pile four or five children into the back, exceeding the passenger limit. Earlier this month, the NTA teamed up with Safe Kids Worldwide, Chevrolet and Unicef to launch a 10-year programme to encourage parents to strap children into seats in the back of the car. A comprehensive effort is needed to get parents to change their attitudes toward buckling up their children, said Yousef al Hosani, chief executive of the Emirates Institute for Health and Safety. "Education will not work alone; strong enforcement with strong commitment and strong fines is needed." * The National