Strap them in and keep them safe.

Published: Monday, February 02, 2015    


This month, and in conjunction with oasis hospital and Babyshop, we launch our annual happy passenger child safety seat campaign. we have two car seats to give away and gift vouchers too! if, together, we can save just one little life, then we’ll be happy.

Despite repeated calls to parents to have their children buckled up in age-appropriate car or booster seats, there is still a high percentage of Mums and Dads who do not heed the warning.

We see it every day on the roads: children jumping around in the back seats of cars; Mums cradling babies in their arms while sitting in the front seat; little kids, unharnessed, hanging out windows

waving to passers-by... One moment carefree and happy, the next moment they could become a road fatality statistic should the driver suddenly

slam on brakes to avoid an incident, or be the victim of an accident.

A young child, unstrapped in a safety seat - or not, if older, wearing a safety

belt - has no chance in such situations. At best, he or she will tumble under the seat in front, certainly encountering some

injury; at worse, the child could fly through the front windscreen to indescribable consequences.

Simply put, the difference between having children properly seated and restrained, or not, can be the difference between life and death.

It’s a sad fact of life today – car accidents happen in every country of the world: some can be avoided, but

many are unavoidable, especially if the driver has a taste for speed or is momentarily distracted and loses

concentration. And one example of that distraction could be speaking on a mobile phone, while another

could be an unruly, unrestrained child jumping around in the car.

There is also a misconception that a child is safe in its mother’s arms during a car journey. It is not. There

is another misconception that a child is safe in its mother’s arms if the mother is strapped in. Again, it is not.

The UAE law states that drivers and front seat passengers must buckle up before driving off. Soon, a law will be introduced making it mandatory for back seat passengers – including children

– to also buckle up. But so far, no law has been introduced requiring children to be restrained in age-appropriate safety seats or boosters. To date, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the Middle East region which requires child restraints to be used in cars.

Much discussion has gone on at high level here, for the UAE to follow suit and introduce legislation making car restraints mandatory for children – from infants upwards – but it still has to be passed.

As parents, our first job is to ensure our children are safe – at home, in school and on the road. “I believe every infant and child should be kept safe in a car,” Dr Augusto Rafael Martinez, a Paediatric Specialist at Oasis Hospital here in Al Ain.

“Keeping them safe means strapping them in by means of a rear facing car seat for babies; a forward facing seat for children from around two to five years and a booster seat for older children up to age nine. Children older than nine should wear an adult safety belt providing it is comfortable and secure,” Dr Martinez recommends.

“And children under the age of 12 should not be encouraged to sit in the front seat, even when wearing a safety belt, because they are more vulnerable in the event of accidents than an adult,” he added.

This is especially so if the air bag is deployed. Airbags provide a great deal of added safety but the force from a deploying air bag could prove fatal against a small child – and this is just one reason why a small child should not be permitted to travel in the front seat.

Dr Martinez, who arrived in Al Ain five months ago to join Oasis Hospital, pointed out: “We don’t let our kids run freely in a busy street for fear of their safety. The same rule applies when they are in a car. Fasten them in to keep them safe – and start restraining them when they’re very young so they become accustomed to being strapped in.

“From another viewpoint, unrestrained small children get restless in cars because there is nothing to capture their imagination

– they can’t see out of the windows as they are too little. But, being strapped into a car seat or booster allows them to be able to see what’s going on outside: they can watch the scenery which in turn, distracts them from making a fuss.”

Parents should set example and wear seat belts at all times when in a moving vehicle but, Dr Martinez concedes, initially, children may try to resist being restrained and so, for the sake of peace, Mums and Dads give in. “Kids not used to being restrained may fuss and cry for a day or so, but parents must persevere with them and be firm. Eventually children will accept that being restrained is the way it’s going to always be.”

Ideally, a child’s safety restraint should be positioned in the middle of the back seat, Dr Martinez suggests: “This is safer for the child. If there’s an impact to the side of the car, there’s less potential for injury. In the case of there being more than one child, the youngest should always be positioned in the middle of the back seat.”

As a Paediatrician, Dr Martinez has come across many heartbreaking cases involving children who have been involved in accidents. One of the saddest, he recalls, was of a young child who was strapped into a car seat. “But, the child fell asleep and the parents, unwisely, thought he would be more comfortable if they unfastened him and laid him on the back seat.

“Sadly this was the worst mistake they could have made, because they were then

involved in a bad car accident. The child survived but his injuries from the impact have left him brain damaged.

“It takes an example like this sad one to prove to parents that they shouldn’t adopt a false sense of security. Accidents happen on a daily basis on both short and long journeys, but parents should never adopt the ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude. Potentially, you could be dealing with a disabled child for the rest of your life.”

Child safety seats do not require a huge investment. As Dr Martinez pointed out: “They are relatively inexpensive these days and, isn’t it better to pay the money and buy the best you can afford, than have a dead child?”

The doctor firmly believes there is call for a national campaign to bring wider awareness to child safety in cars. “A law needs to be introduced as a priority but in reality, it will take time for it to be implemented. However I am optimistic that it will happen soon.

“In the meantime, at Oasis Hospital, we actively encourage mothers who come in here to ensure their babies and children are safely strapped in and advise on the seat

or booster which is best for their little ones and how to secure and operate them.”

Buckling children up is a simple procedure which takes just a few moments so, join us in our 2015 child safety campaign and help make this the year that every youngster, from newborns upwards, is securely strapped in.

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