We have been known to giggle at the latest Dubai claim: the world’s tallest building, first underwater restaurant, scariest water slide. But here’s some statistics we’re not laughing about.
The UAE has the highest rate of road deaths per capita in the world, and traffic collisions are the number one cause of child death in the country. More than 600,000 kids were involved in road smashes between 2001 and 2007, resulting in the death of 470 children under the age of 14. Two thirds of that death toll involved infants and toddlers under four years old.
What’s particularly galling about these horrific figures is that many fatalities and serious injuries could have been prevented. Proper use of a car seat slashes the risk of serious injury or death, which is why we at Time Out Kids are urging all parents to please buckle up their kids.
‘A car seat can be the difference between life and death in even a minor crash,’ says Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical adviser at Safe Kids Worldwide.
‘Car seats are 71 per cent effective in reducing the risk of injury and death for infants and 54 per cent effective for toddlers. Booster seats are 69 per cent more effective than seat belts alone in protecting older kids,’ she adds.
Yet how many of us have seen kids clambering over each other and carrying on in the back seat, sitting unrestrained in the front passenger seat or – believe it or not – riding on the driver’s lap? There’s a sense of complacency and evident lack of awareness here, which must change.
Being belted up in a car is mandatory in the UAE. Putting your child in a car seat is not – yet. However, at the end of last year, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), which is running its own ‘Take Care’ campaign, requested a change in the law which would make child car seats in cars compulsory. Good news indeed.
But why wait for the law? It strikes us as strange that some parents, who obviously love their kids, would risk their lives in such a reckless manner. Even when driving at 50kph – and let’s face it, most of us don’t trundle along at that pace on Dubai’s busy roads – the impact of a reasonably severe bump without a car seat or safety belt is equivalent to flinging your little one off the fourth floor of a building.
‘I must admit I was surprised to see so many children riding unrestrained in the very dense traffic and high speed roadways,’ says Walker, in Dubai recently as part of a ‘Safe Kids/General Motors Buckle Up’ campaign. ‘Everywhere we went, we saw parents taking loving care of their children, so it was a bit of a shock to see them put at such risk in the family vehicle.’
Now we’ve (hopefully) convinced you to buy a car seat, it’s equally important to make sure you fit it, and use it, properly. Children should sit in the car seat with their backs and bums firmly supported against the seat back. Nothing should be placed under or behind them. The harness should come from below the shoulders for the rear-facing, semi-reclined infant and above the shoulders for the forward-facing, upright toddler. It should be tight so you cannot pinch any extra webbing once the harness is buckled.
Whatever method you use to fit your car seat – using the seatbelt, steel parts or tethers – it should not move more than an inch side to side or front to back. Turn to p39 for our thoughts on the best ones out there.
Like an irritating kid, we have an answer for everything. If you’ve ever uttered any of the following as justification for not buckling up your child, shame on you.
• ‘My children kick up a fuss when we try to put them in their car seats’
This is one of those areas that is simply not up for negotiation. So what if they scream and kick and makes themselves sick? Rules are rules, end of story. New parent? Put your baby in a car seat from the very first trip home from the hospital, and do it every single time you get in the car. Your child will grow up knowing this is the norm and won’t quibble. When you have time, make a game of letting your child climb into the car seat. It might even become something they look forward to…
• ‘Car seats are too expensive’
Yes, some of them are pricey but there are reasonably good cheaper options on the market too. We know that parents are forever being asked to dip into their pockets for the latest ‘must-have’ baby or child gadget, but, really, don’t scrimp in this area. Let your baby sleep in a cardboard box if you have to, but don’t go without a car seat.
• ‘My child is too small/big for a car seat’
No they’re not. There is a wide range of infant seats suitable for babies who weigh just 2.3kg, right the way up to booster seats, which can be used until a child is 36kg or around 11 years old. Your child can sit like an adult and use an adult seatbelt if their knees bend at the edge of the seat, if the shoulder belt rests on their shoulder, if the lap belt rests on the hips and if the correct seat belt positioning is maintained for the duration of the trip. Then – and only then – can they come out of a booster seat.
• ‘I breastfeed in the car’