Omani police inspect the site of a collision between alorry and a bus in western Oman on March 1, 2016 that killed 18 people. Oman Police / AFP
Omani police inspect the site of a collision between alorry and a bus in western Oman on March 1, 2016 that killed 18 people. Oman Police / AFP

Experts and parents of victims call for child-seat law to curb Oman road deaths



MUSCAT // Safety experts say a law making child seats mandatory in Oman is needed to curb a rise in the number of children killed on the roads.

Although the number of road accidents in the country is going down, statistics from the road traffic department show that 23 children under the age of 12 died on the roads in the first three months of this year, compared to 18 in the same period last year. About 45 per cent of children killed or hurt in car crashes in 2016 were not in child seats or buckled up.

Overall, road deaths dropped by 6.3 per cent in the first three months of 2017 to 150 people, compared to the first quarter of last year. But safety experts say it is not acceptable to reduce deaths of drivers and adult passengers while the fatality rate among children was increasing.

“It is not acceptable at all. Lower number of road deaths benefits only adults. It means children are still not protected. They travel either not buckled up or not on the child seat. The country needs to pass a law to make child seats mandatory,” said Ian Philips, health and safety lecturer at Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat.

Parents whose children died in car crashes are also calling for child seats to be made mandatory by law.

“I lost my three-year-old daughter in February last year in a car accident because I did not use a child seat. Many parents do not do it because there is no law to force them to do it. As a mother it hurts a lot and I don’t want other parents to go through that,” said Sajda Al Rawahi, a 33-year old civil servant.

Although Oman has not made child seats mandatory, it has passed a law barring children under the age of 12 from travelling in the front seat.

Child deaths in road accidents is also a big issue in the UAE, which has made child seats compulsory as part of law introduced in March that requires all occupants of a vehicle to wear safety restraints.

Sixty per cent of all child deaths in Abu Dhabi were because of road accidents, according to Health Authority Abu Dhabi statistics from 2013.

The worst tragedy in Oman in the last 10 years involving child deaths happened in Muscat in November 2015 when two vehicles collided head-on. Four children aged 7, 5, 3 and 1 were killed. The police report later said that none of the children wore a seat belt or was in a child seat.

Safety experts say that bringing in a law is not enough. A comprehensive campaign by both the public and private sector is needed to educate parents to buckle up their children while they are driving.

“Let’s face it, it is down to parents. They can reduce child deaths on our roads even if legislation is not in place. They need to be educated by starting a nationwide campaign to encourage them to buy a child seat or put seat belts on their children,” said Halima Al Marzooqi, a member of Oman Automobile Association, a body that advocates road safety. “As a parent, you don’t love your kids when you put them on your lap in the front seat. You may sign a death warrant for them if the car hits something or rolls over.”

Mrs Al Marzooqi said the problem was “huge” in the interior towns of Oman.

“People from smaller towns need more education than in Muscat. They are the ones who we see never bothering to buckle up their children when they travel.”

The correct use of car seats can reduce the likelihood of car-crash deaths by 70 per cent in infants, according to the World Health Organisation, and by 54 to 80 per cent among young children.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

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