x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

More than half of students not buckling up, survey says

A BMW study shows that 55 per cent of university students do not consistently wear a seatbelt when riding in a car.

More than half of the country's university students in a survey said they did not regularly wear a seat belt.

The BMW survey of 325 UAE students aged between 18 and 23 found 55 per cent did not consistently wear a seat belt, although 92 per cent knew someone who had been involved in a car accident.

Seventy per cent said it was only necessary to wear a seat belt in the front seat.

The survey is part of the second phase of the "Stay Alert. Stay Alive" campaign BMW has rolled out with Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the Department of Transport, the Roads and Transport Authority and the Higher Colleges of Technology.

Figures from Abu Dhabi traffic police show seat belts can reduce the chances of fatality by 45 per cent in cars.

Federal traffic law requires only front-seat passengers to wear seat belts, with a Dh400 fine and four black points for offenders. But a law to be issued by the end of the year will require everyone in the car to buckle up.

Dr Abdulilah Zineddin, a road safety expert, attributed the survey results to a lack of awareness.

"It is because these kids did not grow up learning from day one the importance of seat belts," Dr Zineddin said. "Parents, schools and the Government all have a huge role to play.

"We must ingrain this concept into our children's heads, that if they wear a seat belt they could reduce the chances of severe injury."

By wearing seat belts, people protect themselves and the other passengers in the vehicle, he said.

Dr Zineddin cited an award-winning Australian road-safety public service advertisement.

"The video, which is based on facts, shows a car with three passengers getting into an accident," he said. "The two passengers sitting in the front were wearing seat belts but the third person sitting at the back was not.

"As the vehicle crashes, the impact causes the backseat passenger to leap forward, causing his head to hit the driver's head and killing her."

Had the back-seat passenger worn a seat belt the driver may have lived, Dr Zineddin said.

Abdulkhaleq Al Baloushi, an electrical engineering student at Al Ain Men's College, has had a family member die in a car crash because he was not wearing a seat belt.

Despite this, Mr Al Baloushi said he wore a seat belt only when driving fast.

His cousin was thrown through the side window of his car.

"It was the impact of hitting the ground at high speed which killed him and not the collision itself," Mr Al Baloushi said.

"It really made me stop and think about reducing my speed when on the highway and made me wear a seat belt when driving fast.

"I believe if I'm driving slowly, within the speed limit and obeying all the traffic rules, then there's no need to wear a seat belt.

Dr Zineddin said that was not the case.

"You are not the only risk on the road," he said. "You could also fall victim to the driving errors of others. That is why a seat belt must be worn at all times."

HAAD figures show human error accounts for three quarters of all traffic crashes.

Meanwhile, 57 per cent of respondents to the survey said they did not insist their passengers buckled up.

Khalid Al Hammadi, 20, a student at Abu Dhabi Men's College, said he wore a seat belt because "it is the law", but he left it to his passengers to make that decision.

"I do not ask my passengers to wear a seat belt," Mr Al Hammadi said. "While I want them to wear it, it's up to them to buckle up, I won't tell them what to do."

Studies show enforcement is as important as awareness, Dr Zineddin said, and one would not work without the other.

"You rarely see anyone being penalised for not wearing a seat belt," he said. "The rule needs to be properly enforced."

Mr Al Baloushi agreed that education coupled with hefty penalties is what will eventually convince young drivers to buckle up.

"Children should be educated at a very early age on the impact of not wearing a seat belt," he said. "All school buses should have individual seat belts for all passengers, with passengers and drivers obliged to wear them.

"[There needs to be] heavier penalties for drivers and passengers who don't wear a seat belt and make sure the police enforce this."

The survey was conducted in May and June The margin of error was not specified.

mismail@thenational.ae