According to the Emirates Driving Institute, until 1996, wearing a seatbelt was not mandatory by law in Dubai. Hodges explains that it is still only front seat occupants who are currently required to wear a seatbelt by law, and while all children must be in the back, there are no rules on child or booster seats, or having to be seated at all.
In the past three years, the number of road users caught not wearing a seatbelt has seen a gradual drop, from 78,513 in 2010, to 76,232 in 2011, to 60,473 in 2012, according to figures from the government-run Dubai Statistics Centre. In the first seven months of 2013, traffic police fined almost 31,000 drivers for not wearing a seatbelt, while 75 were fined for allowing children under ten to sit in the front seat.
In May this year, Hussain Al Banna, Director of Traffic at the RTA’s Traffic and Roads Agency, explained that the RTA is working continuously to ensure the safety of children on the roads. ‘We are encouraging [families] to have a child seat on board, avoid being occupied with driving distractions, and explain to them key causes of horrific traffic accidents resulting in casualties and deaths.’
Dubai is heading in the right direction (and doing slightly better than Abu Dhabi, where 52,000 tickets were issued in the same period this year for not wearing seatbelts) but many road users still aren’t getting the message – seatbelts save lives.
‘Many families sit in the front seat without a belt on, with a small kid on their lap – this increases the death risk, it’s patently madness,’ Hodges notes, and explains in grim detail the devastating effect of not strapping your children in. ‘Kids are often allowed to stand in the rear of the car, between the two front seats, so that they can talk to the parents and look out of the windscreen. We, in my profession, call this area where the kids stand the “Killing Zone”. In an impact, kids rocket forward and either impact with the dashboard or – more commonly – go towards the windshield, impact with it, push the screen out with their collapsing cranium and continue to fly forwards out of the vehicle. Kids are often found crumpled and dead up to 20 feet in front of the car.’
If you think that description is horrifying, the reality is undoubtedly unimaginably worse. ‘All occupants of a car must be made to wear a seatbelt or restraint. These belts are the single-most saver of lives on the roads all over the world. To not wear a seatbelt because it is uncomfortable, or ruins the look of your outfit, are pathetic excuses,’ he argues. ‘I have witnessed the aftermath of many accidents as part of the accident investigation work I have handled in the past, and the damage caused to the frail human body by the massive kinetic forces of an impact is truly shocking,’ he says, adding his hope is that if people are more aware of the tragic, life-shattering consequences, they will hopefully take more care and belt up. Fail to, and a trip to the mall could end up somewhere far more ominous.
We asked visitors to www.timeoutdubai.com whether they opted to wear a seatbelt
89% - Yes
5% - No
6% - sometimes
...and whether they made their child belt up
94% - Yes
5% - never
1% - sometimes
Your chances of being killed if you are hit by a car travelling at 64kph (40mph), according to UK government research.
Percentage of front-seat passengers who wear seatbelts in the UAE, according to WHO estimates for 2011.
Reduced risk of death among infants when child restraints are correctly installed and used. Risk of death among small children is reduced by 54-80 percent.
Reduced risk of fatality among front-seat passengers wearing a seatbelt. The risk reduction for rear-seat passengers is between 25-75 percent.
Your chances of being killed if you are hit by a car travelling at 32kph (20mph).
Percentage of rear-seat passengers who wear seatbelts in the UAE, according to WHO estimates for 2011.
The estimated road traffic death rate in the UAE per 100,000 population, according to figures from the World Health Organisation in 2010, compared with 3.7 per 100,000 for the UK, 18.9 in India, 6.1 in Australia and 9.1 in the Philippines.