ABU DHABI // Road safety experts welcomed the greater availability of child car seats in taxis and private hire cars.
Although not required by law, most family and airport taxi vans in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah are now fitted with child safety seats. Customers can book a cab and request for a car seat at no extra charge.
The ride-hailing app Careem recently said it was to double its dedicated service for children, Careem Kids, that provides cars with a child seat, with the option to add more. Drivers are trained to install the seats.
“We noticed there was a growing need for safe child transportation in the market,” said Careem UAE general manager Aura Lunde. “We wanted to provide a service that not only puts our customers’ minds at ease when their kids are riding with us, but also to raise awareness and drive change,” she said.
The correct use of car seats can cut the likelihood of deaths by 70 per cent for infants, and by 54 to 80 per cent for young children, according to the World Health Organisation.
Experts welcomed the move, saying its success will depend on the level of safety provided.
“A service providing properly installed seats, dedicated vehicles and good levels of driver knowledge for child seat safety appears to provide a solution and an alternative for parents wanting safe transport for their children,” said Simon Labbett, project director at Sheida, an Omani road safety body.
Uber has launched uberFamily, an on-demand car seat option for parents, in half a dozen US cities. The company’s Twitter account said the service is not yet available to customers in the UAE and the company did not respond to requests for comment.
“Equipping chauffeur-driven cars with child seats is a brilliant way to tap an underserved market,” said Glenn Havinoviski, a US-based transport expert. “There are many parents, including expats from countries with stricter child safety seat laws than the UAE, who might not otherwise have been willing to use taxis or ride services.”
These vehicles, he said, could have a positive effect on travel safety for children.
So far, there is no UAE law obliging young children to be strapped into safety seats. The sight of mothers and fathers in the front passenger seat cradling a baby or toddler on their lap or children bouncing around in the back is common.
Car seats are designed to withstand the force of a crash and protect a child from being thrown, said Dr Reem Al Ameria, a child passenger safety technician in Abu Dhabi.
“Children are too young to make safety decisions so they rely on parents to make the right decisions for them,” Mr Labbett said. “Any parent transporting an unrestrained child in a vehicle is irresponsible.”
Parents need to be more accountable for the safety of their children, he said.
“Would a parent risk letting a child play on the main street among the traffic?” Mr Labbett said. “Highly unlikely, but that is exactly what they do when they put unrestrained children in a vehicle and transport them. If the parents are not listening, then perhaps it’s the time for schools to educate and take a lead on social responsibilities?”