Awareness key to child safety

A properly fitted car seat and save a child's life. Pawan Singh / The National
A properly fitted car seat and save a child's life. Pawan Singh / The National

A mother cradling a baby in her arms is the most natural thing in the world, but when it occurs inside a moving vehicle it is a danger to that child’s life. Every parent ought to know that children who are not secured properly in a vehicle face a much greater risk of death or severe injury in the event of an accident. By one estimate, the use of car seats can reduce the risk of death for an infant by 70 per cent. Yet, as a UAE University study has shown, only one in five families always use a car seat for their children. And when car seats are used, they are sometimes not properly fitted. Clearly it is essential that there be initiatives to make families aware of the dangers facing children in cars.

The Dubai Community Development Authority suggests that citizens photograph children who are not restrained properly in vehicles and email those pictures to the police. While the intention may be very good, it is easy to see why many people would be uncomfortable with this. Considerations include a reluctance to become involved in another person’s affairs, the safety of taking a picture in moving traffic and the practicalities of taking a usable photo if the car involved has darkly-tinted windows.

Then there is the issue of legality, with it being prohibited to take photographs of people without their permission, so anyone who did so might find themselves in an altercation with the subject or in trouble with the police. However, the Child Protection Law, which came into effect in June, does allow people to report incidents where caregivers, relatives, neighbours or medical staff put a child’s life at risk – and it would seem that it would therefore be permissible to take a photo if it were only sent to police, not otherwise distributed.

The question is whether we, as a society, want to encourage people to take the law into their own hands. Even if it is well-intentioned, vigilantism is fraught. The best way to protect children in vehicles is to ensure that everybody knows the rules – and the reasons for them. This is an issue that should be primarily pursued through awareness campaigns and enforced by the proper authorities.

Published: September 4, 2016 04:00 AM