Careless parents mean child road injuries soar in Oman

Parents blamed for not making children wear seat belts.

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MUSCAT // The number of children requiring hospital care after being hurt in road accidents in Oman because they were not wearing seat belts has risen by an average of 12 per cent a year in the past three years, traffic department figures show.

Last year, 258 children were taken to emergency wards across the country after traffic accidents. In 2009, the number was 240 and in 2008, 213.

"Parents must take the blame for the rise in children casualties on the road. Children would always break the rules because they are too young to understand. It is the responsibility of the parents to make sure every child is buckled up when they are in the car," Muhanna al Haremy, a road safety committee member, said.

Mr al Haremy said a properly used seat belt reduced a child's risk of injury in a crash by as much as 75 per cent, yet 90 per cent of the children were using seat belts incorrectly or not at all. When used properly, a seat belt provides 60 per cent more protection than going without one. In a collision, children who are not using seat belts are five times more likely to suffer significant injury and four times more likely to suffer a head injury than those who are wearing them, Mr al Haremy said.

On May 27, four children from the same family died in the town of Sur after the car they were in overturned. They were not wearing seat belts, according to the police.

"We have horrific injuries from car accidents involving children every week. Seventy per cent of them would have escaped with only minor injuries only if they had their seat belts on," Dr Salim al Asmi, of Nizwa Hospital in Oman, said.

It is not uncommon to see children jumping or sticking their heads through the windows while their parents are driving, motorists say.

"They also fight each other, throw things on the roads and do all kind of mischief while parents do nothing about it," Lubna Al Lawati, the mother of a nine-year-old boy, said.

Dr al Asmi called for stricter rules that would punish parents if it was proved that they were negligent while having children on-board.

"If a child gets hurt because they did not wear a seat belt then the parents have contributed to the injury. The police must hand out a severe punishment to such parents," Dr al Asmi said.

A traffic department spokesman said, "Parents must be responsible with their children while they drive and no amount of fines or punishment can take the place of good judgement when it comes to family safety."