x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Doctor upset by prevalence of scooter injuries

Children are being hurt seriously while riding mopeds and scooters, an emergency room doctor reports.

A teenager riding his motorcycle outside Marina Mall.
A teenager riding his motorcycle outside Marina Mall.

Children are being hurt seriously while riding mopeds and scooters, an emergency room doctor reports. Dr Jihad Awad, the chairman of the Mafraq Hospital emergency room, said children are suffering spinal and head injuries, as well as second-degree burns. "Scooters in many ways are more dangerous than a car," Dr Awad said. "Anything that can happen to the human body in a car can happen on a scooter. In fact, the injuries can be more severe as the riders are unrestrained."

Over the years he has seen children who have suffered chest compressions after crashing into handlebars, as well as a variety of broken bones and more serious internal injuries. "Those are the most serious of injuries resulting from scooter crashes that we have had in the Mafraq Hospital emergency room," Dr Awad said. "Many more accidents happen that are not so serious, with parents preferring to nurse their children at home rather than bring them into the hospital, as they fear that the police will be involved." However, children who are injured in a scooter incident should see a doctor even if they seem fine.

"Internal injuries are injuries that may not be immediately visible but can be fatal hours after a crash has occurred," he said. Dr Awad would like to see scooters registered and their drivers trained and licensed. He also urged parents to insist that their children operate them responsibly and wear helmets. Col Hamad al Shamsi, the director of the traffic and patrols department of the Abu Dhabi Police, said young people are banned from driving scooters. "Since they are motor vehicles they have to be registered and those driving them have to be licensed drivers," he said. The mopeds and scooters may be illegal, but there appears to be little enforcement of the law. On any given day after 2pm, when school gets out, children as young as seven can be seen speeding around on the vehicles without helmets in Bani Yas. At one point this week there were more than 15 children zipping around on scooters in a one-hour period. Some were driving on the wrong side of the road against traffic, racing over curbs and speed humps and darting in and out of traffic. Others passed police cars without being stopped. Two children, ages six and nine and both barefoot, shared a scooter that they raced around their block. In such outlying communities of Bani Yas, Shawamekh and Al Wathba, where bus lines do not run, the scooter is the preferred method of transportation for those who are too young to drive or who cannot afford cars. Three friends, Abdullah Mohammed, 18, Mabkhoot Laghim, 17 and Mishaal Abdullah, 17, use their scooters to travel the 6km distance from Al Wathba to Bani Yas to visit each other. "We don't have cars and there are no buses here," Abdullah said. "Without the scooters we would sit at home all day long, so we need them for transportation." The young men paid Dh1,200 (US$327) each for their scooters, which they bought from a repair shop in Bani Yas. They do not wear helmets. "First, there are no helmets for sale in Bani Yas or Al Wathba," Mabkhoot said. "And if they were available, people would laugh at us. If the police make everyone wear helmets, we would start." ealghalib@thenational.ae