Child safety seats free for the taking

Government agencies and a carmaker will hand out 4,000 car seats in Abu Dhabi and Dubai next month.

DUBAI // In a push to get child safety seats into vehicles ahead of a 2011 law mandating their use, Government agencies and a carmaker will hand out 4,000 car seats in Abu Dhabi and Dubai next month. Motorists will be shown how to fit the car-seat and how to properly secure their children in a campaign called "Stay alert, stay alive". Dr Jens Thomsen, the section head of occupational and environmental health for Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), said the goal was to get children buckled up as soon as possible, thus reducing the death rate.

"In 2009 alone, 44 children died of road traffic injuries in Abu Dhabi emirate," Dr Thomsen said yesterday at the campaign launch. He said as many as 68 per cent of all childhood injury deaths are caused by road traffic injuries, which makes these injuries by far the leading cause of childhood injury death in the country. From 2000 to 2006, 457 children died from road traffic injuries. Dr Thomsen said that for every child killed, 171 would be injured.

He said that child seats are 71 per cent effective for infants and 54 per cent effective for toddlers in preventing childhood fatalities attributable to car crashes. BMW Group Middle East will give away safety seats on April 2 at the Abu Dhabi Corniche and on April 12 at the Dubai Creekside Park. Dr Thomsen said child restraints were mandatory in 46 per cent of all countries but that Saudi Arabia was the only GCC country that imposed the law.

"HAAD would strongly recommend and support the highly needed introduction of a child safety restraint law for the UAE," he said. Last month, the Ministry of Interior confirmed plans to finalise a federal bill to make child car seats and seat belts mandatory in 2011. The Roads and Transport Authority has also backed the campaign. Peyman Younes Parham, the director of marketing and corporate communications at the authority, said it was an important initiative.

"This campaign is so important because it is about educating the drivers and a new generation about using seat belts," he said. BMW Group Middle East conducted a survey of 1,000 of its customers on the use of seat belts. Phil Horton, the managing director of the group, said the results were "unsettling". "While 94 per cent of respondents said that it was important for children to use restraints, 37 per cent confessed that their children didn't use them," he said. "In fact, most admitted to holding their children in their arms as a passenger, an extremely dangerous practice."

It was announced earlier this month that HAAD would hand out 4,500 car seats to parents of newborns in the second half of this year.