Driving with a child? This is why you need to make sure they're strapped in

Energy Sunday 17/September/2017 21:34 PM
By: Times News Service
Driving with a child? This is why you need to make sure they're strapped in

Muscat: Two Oman racing car drivers have teamed up with road safety chiefs to give residents one simple warning: “If you don’t strap in your child, you’re risking their life.”
Ahmad Al Harthy and Ayman Al Salmi may often drive at breakneck speeds clocking more than 250 kph (kilometres per hour), but they are surrounded by some of the safest gear in the world, and have one very strong message for people—strap in your young children, so that they don’t suffer.
“Whenever I am driving on the road, I often see young children sitting on their mothers’ laps in the front of the car, or just in front of them, in the gap between the seat and the dashboard,” said Al Harthy, speaking to the Times of Oman. “This really irritates me, because it is so simple for families to make sure their children are safe.”
“Most of them can easily afford car seats for their children, and one tiny mistake made by the driver could result in a really serious injury, or even worse,” added Al Harthy, who currently represents Oman Racing.
“They are risking their children’s lives just because they don’t know about the importance of getting a car seat, or maybe they don’t realise how it can help.”
“I am involved in many campaigns to promote road safety in Oman, and I believe we need a much larger platform to inform people,” he explained. “Now, we see signboards asking people to wear their seat belts properly, or to follow the correct speed limit, so hopefully, in the future, we’ll see something similar for this as well.”
Al Harthy is not wrong: car seats can cost as low as OMR60, and go a long way in saving a child’s life, a fact Renault racing’s test driver and Oman Force racer Ayman Al Salmi knows only too well.
“I knew someone who didn’t put their young daughter in a car seat, and he got into an accident,” he recalled. “She had a bad injury and she was in the hospital for three months, fighting with those injuries and she died. “Her parents were obviously very sad, but this could have been prevented if they had put their child in a car seat.”
“I have three children myself, and I always make sure they are in the car seat,” added Al Salmi. “I see many children jumping around inside their cars, playing and throwing toys around,” he said. “This is very dangerous because the parents, who are driving the cars will be very distracted by these children and could cause an accident.”
Ali Al Barwani is chief executive officer of Oman’s Road Safety Association. In the last 12 months, his organisation have distributed over 300 car seats to new parents, in an attempt to boost awareness on this subject.
“The main reason parents don’t put their children in car seats is because of a lack of education,” he revealed.
“The bodies of these little children are soft and they are not fully formed. That is why, even if they may not suffer any external injuries, they could have internal bleeding when they have an accident, they may not even know that has happened.”
“We have provided car seats in seven places across Oman since August 2016, and hopefully, by next year, we can provide 300 more. We began at the Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Salalah in August 2016, and then distributed more at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital in Muscat,” added Al Barwani.
“Then we went to Royal Hospital and Khoula Hospital, before going to Sohar. After that, we went to Sinaw and Ibra, and we now want to help the more remote areas, such as Duqm, Haima, Musandam and the Masirah Islands.”
A Royal Oman Police (ROP) spokesperson was also quick to add to this. “The child seat should be installed behind the front passenger seat, so that the child can get off the car on the side of the platform. Children up to 12 years or under 1.50 metres must be seated in a child seat," he warned. "The seat belt should be securely attached to the child's seat to provide adequate protection while driving.”
One in 10 deaths on Oman’s roads is that of a child: in 2016, 82 of the 692 deaths that took place on the road were those of children aged 15 and under, in addition to another 393 injuries. A total of 4,721 accidents occurred in the Sultanate in 2016, according to the official facts and figures released by the ROP and the Directorate General of Traffic.
Collisions were the number one cause for accidents, with inter-vehicle collisions accounted for 2,076 accidents, with another 1,125 stemming from collisions with fixed objects.