Dubai: If you’re like many UAE parents, who carry their babies while in a moving car thinking that’s the safest place for their young ones, think again.
A collision even at 50km/h will have a strong crash force impact on your baby that could easily throw him off the car.
“In a crash, a 10-kg baby unrestrained on a car which is running at a 50 km/h speed will experience a crash force of 500 kg, almost the size of a bull,” Dr. Reem Al Ameria, a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, told Gulf News.
“An unrestrained child on a car running at 25 km/h will experience an actual crash force equivalent to that of falling from a three-storey building,” Reem added.
The small bodies of infants and children require specific car seats that will restrain them in the car should a crash happen. Car seats also helps absorb the crash force to prevent injury.
In the UAE, 63 per cent or roughly two out of three deaths of children below 14 years old are due to road traffic accidents according to health authorities in the country. The percentage is more than double the global average at 22.3 per cent, said Reem, citing statistics from health authorities in the UAEUnfortunately, many parents in the UAE are unaware of this painful reality according to a new report, The Nielson Study on Child Safety. The study, commissioned by Babyshop, assessed the child safety perceptions of 381 parents with children below 12 years old in the UAE.
The study revealed that 43 per cent or three out of seven respondents admitted they do not use car seats for children under 12. When asked why, many of them deemed a child car seat as unimportant. They said they believe babies are safest in their arms while travelling.
The study also foundthat 18 per cent of the parents admitted that children below the permissible age travel in the front seat. By law, children aged 10 years and below are not allowed to sit in the front seat even with a seat belt on.
“The statistics indicate a grim picture of ignorance even after repeated warnings and reports of such incidents. This research will seek to lay the groundwork towards developing effective policies and instilling a higher level of awareness to reduce the odds,” Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director of Publications, Al Nisr Publishing, said.
“Families think kids are happier when they’re loose. But a car is not a playground,” said Reem, who formerly worked at Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad).. Child passenger safety is close to Reem’sheart as she strongly pushed for this during Haad’s road safety campaign in 2011.
As per Haad’s figures, 98 per cent of children in cars are not restrained and 23 per cent of children travel illegally in the front seat. Dr. Al Ameria said this number could be reduced or eliminated if parents are educated on child passenger safety. She further highlighted the importance of passing the draft law on Child Passenger Safety, which she helped draft.
Almost half or 46 per cent of the countries worldwide, including the US, UK, Singapore, and Australia, have a national laws that mandate child safety restraints on cars. In the GCC, child safety restraints are mandatory only in Saudi Arabia.
With the absence of a law, an attitude change among parents is needed to avoid the loss of young lives.
“Comprehensive child safety requires an attitude change which stems with parents. Parents are most familiar with their child’s surroundings – whether it’s at home, in the car, outdoors or at school. They are also familiar with their child’s habits well enough to know what may potentially be dangerous,” Rahul Saxena, Babyshop spokesperson, told Gulf News.
Families can be proactive and have “Safety Audits” conducted in their homes and cars in order to carefully assess the risks or hazards present in a child’s environment.
“The idea is to try to identify and minimise the risk by using the appropriate ‘child-proofing’ gear in the house,” Saxena said.
In terms of using car seats, Souad Al Merri, Organiser of the Child Safety – Car Seat Campaign from Sharjah Ladies Club, said it all takes getting used to the idea. Her organisation has distributed free car seats in various Sharjah hospitals to change parents’ mindsets and put their newborns in car seats upon leaving the hospital.
“It’s important to just make it a habit whenever the parents go out with their kids. Because the longer we try to delay this, the more risky it becomes for our children,” Al Merri said.
BOX: MORE RESULTS OF THE CHILD SAFETY RESEARCH (FOR GRAPHICS)
1) Fears and worries of parents for their children:
Electricity hazards – 55%
Cuts from Sharp Objects – 49%
Vehicle Passenger Accidents – 46%
Choking or strangulation – 36%
2) Major safety concerns of parents change with their children’s age:
Parents with children, aged 1 to 3: unsafe toys, poisoning, suffocation
Parents with children, aged 6 to 12: accidents while crossing the road, playground; online safety
Parents taking precautions: 86% (remove sharp objects – 28%; Keep away from electrical things – 16%)
Supervision of child: 48% (Keep eyes on them always – 11%; Never leave them alone – 8%)
Safety practices on car: 28% (Always have seat belt on – 14%; Children seat should be available in car – 10%)