Dubai nursery shames parents into child car safety
DUBAI // It's been one week since Emerald City Nursery started tracking offenders, and they already have 11 embarrassed families on a watch-list.
Their offence? Driving without securing their children in the car.
In a new campaign - "Buckle-Up or Face-Up!" - the Jumeirah nursery is targeting parents who drop off or pick up children without buckling them into safety seats or seat belts.
The first time, staff post the car registration number on a nursery bulletin board. The second time, they post the child's name under the heading "Child at Risk."
"So far, when they've been caught they haven't done it again," said the nursery manager, Elizabeth Hart. "They've been too embarrassed."
The Government has been discussing making child car restraints obligatory since 2008, but failing to secure young children is not yet illegal.
A Ministry of Interior official told Al Ittihad newspaper this month that they were renewing their efforts to codify the safety practice.
Five children died and 134 were injured in traffic accidents in the first half of this year.
"Almost always when we have children injured, they are unrestrained, and they did not use seat belts or they were sitting in the front seat," said Dr Taisser Atrak, chair of paediatrics at Mafraq Hospital.
A YouGov Siraj survey last year found that 30 per cent of parents did not use car seats for children under 1 and 35 per cent did not use them for children aged 1 to 4.
Instead of waiting for a law, Beautiful Minds Nurseries founder Bernadette King-Turner decided to take matters into her own hands.
"A lot of children are now being fastened in the vehicle because the parents are like, 'Ms Bernadette is going to catch me'," she said. "They don't want to be shamed. They want to show that they're doing the right thing with their children."
The Dubai nursery chain announced the policy in a note to parents at the start of the term. It applies to all four of its nurseries: Emerald City, Yellow Brick Road, Crystal Valley and Indigo Valley.
"I have nearly 800 children at the nurseries," Ms King-Turner said. "There's a good number of children we can keep safe, and hopefully the parents of those children will not let them be in the front seat or on their driver's lap or just running freely through the vehicle."
At Emerald City, a security guard watches drop-offs and pick-ups and discreetly notes the details of offenders.
The nursery, which has more than 100 children, has caught 11 families since monitoring began on September 12 - six in the first two days. Ms Hart gives the parent a warning card the next time they arrive.
"It's not always the parent, sometimes it's the driver, sometimes the taxi driver," said Ms King-Turner. "Sometimes the parents are not aware."
The policy has been welcomed by parents.
"In Mexico it's compulsory," said Adriana Salinas, from Mexico and mother of two-year-old Pablo.
"It's a really good initiative," said Nada Labib, from Egypt, mother of three-year-old Layla. "Parents don't take it seriously. They think sometimes, it's only a short trip."
Anthea Modin, from South Africa, mother of two-year-old Thalia, has "always been a big supporter of buckling up.
"My oldest son is 8 and of course we have the argument about, 'I'm big,' but for us it's a no-no."
She called over her son, Trond, and asked his opinion. He gravely agreed with her. "Kids could die," Trond said.
Dr Atrak praised the nursery's campaign. "Unless we work as a team everywhere in the community … we will not make much difference."
Education and legislation must go hand-in-hand, he said. "Legislation alone would not do much, because parents would just ignore it. But if we tell them the right message, then they will."
Updated: September 20, 2012 04:00 AM