Article in Brief: The author writes about the dangers of not enforcing the use of car seats and risking the safety of our children on UAE roads.
According to the Health Authority in Abu Dhabi (HAAD), road injuries are the main cause of death in children. Reaching a staggering rate of 60%, the accidents have been brought on by the absence of car seats and wearing seat belts.
Every day, we see children of varying ages not buckled up properly, with some even dangling from the windows or standing around in speeding cars. The reasons for not using car seats are largely due to unawareness of their importance. There is also a general misconception that babies are safer in a car if held in the arms rather than in a car seat. Others may stop using it if their children are fussy or difficult when they try to strap them in. Yet, none of these are valid reasons for endangering your child’s life.
As a parent, you may be a responsible driver when your children are in the car, but you cannot guarantee the driving habits of others. Accidents are simply unplanned incidents that are beyond our control. You could be driving at a safe speed, but if the car in front of you suddenly stops, making you come to a sudden halt without crashing into them, your unbuckled standing child could fly out the window, be severely injured, or worse yet, be fatally injured.
I cannot count the number of times that people have suggested I just hold my baby in my arms instead of buckling her up in the car seat because she would not stop crying, but that is something I can never compromise on. This should never be an option. All children up to the age of 12 should be in an age appropriate car seat or booster, until they are ready to be buckled up with a seat belt alone.
I tried to research online what laws are in place in the UAE for car seat usage, and I was surprised to find none. Recent reports indicate that using car seats and seat belts are “recommended” but not compulsory. I found many sources dating back a few years with headlines such as “car seat laws to be enforced”, yet it has not happened to date. I don’t understand why this is still an issue that is up for debate and not enforced. The safety of our children should be our utmost priority. Enforcing the use of age appropriate car seats, boosters, and seat belts could reduce road fatalities by up to 80%. So why are parents still not using these to protect their children?
The HAAD recently launched an initiative to introduce car seats to family van taxi drivers, and in the past, campaigns were launched where car seats were distributed to new parents. There are also some hospitals that provide free car seats to parents of newborns. While these are all positive steps in the right direction, we need to focus on instilling this habit in every parent’s mind. It should be so deep rooted that using a car seat doesn’t come as a question, but a necessity. When a child is used to being buckled up from the start, then it doesn’t become a struggle later on, but a habit that is carried into adulthood.
We need more campaigns to raise awareness so parents can understand the reasons for using car seats, and more importantly, we need these laws to be enforced. All measures should be used to impose such laws, whether it is through hefty fines, black points, or even impounding cars. Hospitals should also make it mandatory to ensure that every newborn leaves the hospital in an appropriate car seat. Hospitals and clinics which have information sessions for expecting mothers on pregnancy health, breastfeeding, should also include car seat safety with instructions on how to use them. There needs to be a collective effort to ensure that the message is spread countrywide to ensure our children’s safety as much as possible.
- Khaleej Times (2015). “”Now, Child Safety Car Seats in Abu Dhabi’s Taxis”. Retrieved 14 July 2015. http://www.khaleejtimes.com/article/20150511/ARTICLE/305119839/1013
- Arabian Business (2010). “Child Car Seat Scheme Set for Abu Dhabi Parents”. Retrieved 14 July 2015. http://m.arabianbusiness.com/child-car-seat-scheme-set-for-abu-dhabi-parents-89789.html
- Emirates 24/7 (2015). “Not Seating Child in Rear Car Seat: Dh400 Fine, 4 Black Points”. Retrieved 14 July 2015. http://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/not-seating-child-in-rear-car-seat-dh400-fine-4-black-points-2015-03-18-1.584528