Kids bouncing about unrestrained in cars are a common sight in Dubai, along with babies being held on the knees of passengers. I've even witnessed infants being dandled on the knee of the driver. You've probably experienced my rants about this before... but please keep reading.
I recently met the very lovely Lesley Cully, the founder of Buckle up in the Back Dubai, who inspired me to stop merely grumbling about the foolishness of parents who fail to strap their kids into car seat belts and actually help her, in whatever small (or big) way I can.
The aim of Buckle up in the Back Dubai is to get the law changed so everyone has to strap their kids in to the appropriate child restraints, to provide continued education in schools on the importance of wearing a seat belt and to promote proper enforcement of any law that is brought in for wearing a seatbelt.
In case you're not convinced, here are some hard, cold facts...
- Between 2000 and 2006, 450 children under 14 years who were not wearing seat belts or restrained in child seats died in road accidents in the UAE, according to ministry statistics. Two thirds of the victims were under four. (Source: The National)
- A number of studies of accident outcomes suggest that fatality rates among car occupants are reduced by between 30-50% if seat belts are worn. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that death risks for a driver wearing a lap-shoulder seat belt are reduced by 48%. (Source: US NHTSA)
- Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has found them to reduce fatal injury by 71% for infants less than 1 year old and by 54% for toddlers 1-4 years old in cars. (Source: FARS - NHTSA)
- Around 40 front seat passengers are killed every year in Britain as a result of the back seat passenger being unrestrained. During a collision an unrestrained child sat in the back can hit the driver with a force equivalent to the weight of a baby elephant. (Source: Buckinghamshire County Council)
So, if you're a Dubai resident, what can you do?
Go to Lesley's Facebook page and start reading, then sign up to get her tweets. Get yourself a 'Buckle up in the Back' sticker and display it on your car. Write in to 7Days. Blog or microblog about it. Tell your friends. Get your kids to tell their friends. The more noise we make, the more likely we are to see real change.
Finally, take pictures of the worst examples you see on the Dubai roads and email them to me, I'll post them here. To start you off, here's one especially intelligent chap who thought he'd let his kid have a bit of fun on the way home from school last week...
(That's right, the child really is standing up through the sunroof...)