Abu Dhabi: Parents who wish to ensure their children’s safety while using public transport in the emirate of Abu Dhabi can now book taxis fitted with child car seats, authorities announced in the capital today (May 10).

The initiative was taken by the emirate’s health sector regulator, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad), in collaboration with transport regulators, the Department of Transport (DoT) and the Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (TransAD).

The child seats are already available in about 10 family vans provided by the TransAD, a spokesperson told Gulf News.

“Residents can book a family van by calling the TransAD call centre, and place a special request for the car seats if they need them,” he added.

A Haad statement sent today (May 10) said that van drivers would also be educated about the importance and use of these safety seats.

According to Haad statistics, injuries are the second leading cause of death in the emirate. In fact, 12 per cent of all deaths are caused by road traffic accidents. In addition, these road traffic accidents are the main cause of death among children, and are accountable for 60 per cent of child fatalities each year.

Previous Haad studies have also found that more than about 98 per cent of children are unrestrained during car trips, and about 20 per cent travel illegally in the front seat.

Officials therefore stressed that the use of age-appropriate car safety seats can reduce up to 80 per cent of all fatal injuries caused by road traffic incidents. They also emphasised the need to dispel the myth that children are safest in their mother’s arms when travelling.

“In a collision at a speed of only 50 kilometres per hour, an unrestrained baby or child can fly into the windscreen with a force that is equivalent to falling from a three-storey building. It is physically impossible to hold on to a child if a car crashes at that [low] speed,” warned Dr Jamal Al Mutawa, manager of community health and surveillance at the Haad.

Faisal Al Suwaidi, director-general of main roads at the DoT, said there are also plans to extend the availability of child car seats to regular taxis.

“If a child is restrained in a car seat from an early age, he is more likely to develop the habit of wearing a seat belt later on. That is why we have taken this vital step,” he explained.

He added that the DoT was also working on providing brochures that will explain how to choose appropriate car seats for children, and encourage their use on all car journeys. These will soon be available in both English and Arabic.