What is your most treasured possession? Your new car, your diamond ring, your new phone? What about your child? We put insurance and protectors on our newly purchased items without a second thought, but are you protecting your child in the car?
On a daily basis we see parents dropping off children to school with the child seated in the front seat, on the lap of a nanny, mother or father and even on the lap of the driver! It is horrifying to see this, knowing the dangers that are looming over the child. For example if a car crashes while traveling at just 50kms/hour a child held in the arms of a mother will be crushed by the air bag or thrown through the windscreen. The impact at this speed is equivalent to the child falling out of a third story window. At 100kms/hr that increases to a fifteen story building! The argument is always – ‘I can hold onto my child, he is safest in my arms’. But weight increases according to speed – that is just physics. If you multiply the weight of the child – say 10kgs – by the speed -50mpg – the child would become like a 500kg brick, so there is no way that a mother would be able to hold on to her child in an accident. According to a recent report by Road Safety UAE, a horrifying 98% of children in the UAE are not restrained, and according to a report from Health Authority Abu Dhabi in 2013, 62% of all child deaths were from traffic accidents. Recently a 2 year old child in RAK opened the door of the car while the father was driving and fell out, causing severe injuries from which he did not survive. These preventable accidents are what we need to avoid.
According to the UAE law, a child under 10 cannot sit in the front seat. This offence comes with a fine of 400Dhs and 4 black points. Currently there is no set law regarding car seats but awareness is the first step. A properly installed car seat can protect the spine, head and neck from severe injury in the case of most accidents. There are many car seats on the market and they are easily available to everyone as the costs vary widely according to the preference and the weight of the child.
The rear-facing ones are in group 0 or group 0+ and cater for infants from birth to around 18 months or approximately 13kgs. Some come with a base that remains in the car and the seat can be used with a stroller as well that you just clip it into the car, while some you just fix with the seat belt. Group 1 is for 9 months to around 4 years or 9kg to 18kg. These seats face forward and usually have extra head and side protection. Group 2 is a booster seat with side protection for 3-6 years old or 15kg-25kg. Finally group 3 is a simple booster seat that is suitable for up to 12 years or 22kg-36kg. There are some seats that convert through some of these stages, allowing it to be more economical.
Remember to make sure that the seat belt is fitting properly, and never put the shoulder strap behind the child’ s back or two children in the same seat belt. The best way to teach your children is by example so make sure you are wearing your seat belt, even in the back seat. Let us work towards protecting our most valuable assets – our children.