x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Drivers who refuse to restrain children to face fines

Federal laws requiring the use of appropriate child car restraints will be implemented this year.

By the end of the year, motorists who do not properly restrain their children will face fines and penalties.

Traffic authorities are reviewing revisions to federal traffic laws that will require children under 11 years old to be restrained using car seats, boosters and seat belts.

A new article will be added to the law that was issued in 1995, said Brig Gen Ghaith Al Zaabi, the director general of traffic co-ordination at the Ministry of Interior (MoI). He added that the new provisions will be issued within the year.

The current law does not require car seats for children, nor does it require that children use seat belts in the back seat of a vehicle.

However, it does prohibit children aged under 10 from sitting in the front seat, and requires the driver and the front-seat passenger to wear a seat belt. Offenders are subject to a Dh400 fine and four black points on their driving record.

However, the new provisions, which are being proposed by the Higher Committee for Child Protection at the MoI, will require all children under 11 to be restrained either in car seats or booster seats, depending on age and weight.

Penalties for non-compliance are still being discussed, Brig Al Zaabi said. According to figures from the Moi, there have been 12 child fatalities resulting from traffic accidents during the first five months of this year. During the same period, 149 children have been injured. "The causes behind these are children who were sitting in the front seat, or who were not properly restrained in the vehicles," the brigadier said.

Maj Gen Nasser Al Nuaimi, chairman of the committee, said that the proposed recommendations were based on international best practices, including British standards.

In the UK, all children in private cars are required to be properly restrained, based on the child's age and weight, until they are either 135cm tall or 12 years old, whichever comes first.

After reaching the age or height limit, children must use an adult seat belt.

UK drivers convicted of failing to properly restrain a child face fines up to £500 (Dh3,000). However, once an individual is 14 years old, using a seat belt becomes the responsibility of the passenger, rather than the driver.

Research has shown that only 2 per cent of children in Abu Dhabi emirate are properly restrained.

Brig Al Zaabi attributed this figure to a lack of awareness by motorists of the important role restraints play in keeping children safe. "Drivers and parents should know that these car seats are meant to protect their children."

According to figures from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration in the United States, child safety seats in passenger cars can reduce the risk of a fatal injury by 71 per cent for infants and 54 per cent for toddlers.

The use of safety restraints in taxis and public transportation vehicles is also under discussion, police officials said.

"We're taking all international best practices into consideration," Brig Al Zaabi said.

UK law dictates that, if unavailable, child seats are not required in taxis and buses, however any available restraints, such as seat belts, must be used.

Maj Gen Al Nuaimi said that keeping children on the driver's or passenger's lap, and allowing children to climb between the front and back seats, often leads to parents facing the worst penalty of all - their child's death.

"Such errors in judgement can lead to a tragic accident," he said. "The recent number of accidents that have involved child fatalities is because of the lack of commitment in this area."

mismail@thenational.ae