Ras Al Khaimah: A Pakistani father, who has just lost his two-year-old daughter in a car accident, is sending out a heart-felt appeal to parents on the dangers of a routine act of negligence witnessed almost daily on UAE roads — children seated in a parent’s lap in the front seat and not using the seat belt.
Recalling the incident, Mohammad Kamran Shahid told Gulf News that on Friday, June 28, around 6.25pm, he was at the wheel of his Toyota Camry, while his daughter Anabia, two years and nine months old, was in her mother’s lap in the front passenger seat, and was not wearing a seat belt. They were on Al Jazeera Al Hamra road, near the Emirates roundabout in Ras Al Khaimah, when suddenly, his daughter thrust her leg at the steering wheel, making the car veer off the road.
Desperate to halt the car’s sudden turn that was hurtling the vehicle down a sand patch, Shahid hit the brakes. The baby girl flew off her mother’s lap and hit her head on the dashboard.
The child was rushed to the Saqr hospital where she was kept on a ventilator for 24 hours.
Mohammad Rashid Bin Arshid, director of Saqr Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah, told Gulf News that Anabia sustained head injuries and was suffering from severely low blood pressure. Despite their best efforts to save her, she succumbed to her injuries. At 7pm on Saturday, she was declared dead, her grieving father told Gulf News on Thursday. She was their only child.
He advised parents to never let their children sit in the front seat and always strap them into child seats at the back. It takes only a few seconds to secure your child in a proper seat, he said.
What the law says
Lieutenant Colonel Saif Abdullah Al Falasi, Director General of Ajman Traffic and Patrol Department, warned parents against allowing their children under the age of 10 to be seated in the car’s rear seats without being buckled in a child seat.
He told Gulf News that child safety seat is a must for children under the age of 10 in the UAE.
As per the Federal Traffic laws Article 49, front seat passengers should also be at least 145cm tall and not younger than 10 years old. Parents who allow children to sit in car’s rear seat without child seat will be fined Dh400.
Lt.Col. Al Falasi said that the seat belt rule is also applicable drivers as well passengers according to Federal Law Article 49.
A driver not wearing a seat belt will be fined Dh400 in addition to four traffic points and passengers not wearing the seat belt will be fined Dh400.
The traffic department of Ajman police recorded a number of violations related to child seat as well as seat belt. “Parents put their children at risk when they let them sit either in front seat or in the rear seat [without the child seat].”
Reports reveal that traffic accidents are the main cause of children’s deaths in the UAE, apart from cases of children falling from buildings and drowning.
“[Buckling them up in child seats] can reduce the impact of a traffic accident but when the child is left [unrestrained] in the back seat, any minor accident can injure the child,” Lt.Col. Al Falasi said.
Other precautions parents must take to ensure their child’s safety are monitoring children’s behaviour inside the vehicle and locking all doors and windows so that children cannot be tempted to put their head or hands outside when the vehicle is moving.
How car seats protect children:
Parents should not carry babies while sitting in the front seat nor let children sit in front as they are the first casualties in the event of a crash. A terrifying impact from behind can hurl babies on mothers’ laps through the windshield. If it’s a head-on collision and the airbag deploys, it can crush the baby’s head, immediately causing death.
Car seats form a protective cocoon for infants during accidents. Rear-facing car seats will absorb the front-impact and its shell and cushion protect the spine and vital parts of the baby. The seat belt also prevents the baby from being thrown off inside the vehicle.
Young children have a smaller build and should be in child car seats as regular car seat belts cannot offer the same protection and restraint as a child car seat.
Dos and don’ts:
■ Children under the age of 10 are not allowed to ride in the front seat of a vehicle.
■ Always use proper restraining devices for your child (child seats, booster cushions).
■ Never allow children to move about freely inside the car.
■ Do not allow your child to sit on the lap of any passenger or the driver.