Muscat: “We must go to any length to protect our children.”
That’s the stark message that the head of Oman’s Road Safety Association has to share as a national car safety campaign launched in Oman.
Two children died on Oman’s roads yesterday as another fatal road crash in Al Wusta was recorded in the statistics. Had they been strapped in properly, they may have survived.
Read here: Four killed, including two children, in Oman car crash
All involved in the crash were Emirati, with four members of a family — including two children — being killed. Their father and grandmother also died in the accident. The other two individuals who were seriously injured were also from the United Arab Emirates.
Today, the Times of Oman launches ‘STRAP ‘EM IN’ - a campaign to raise awareness and give away vouchers for car seats. Our campaign has been welcomed by road safety chiefs.
“We would never harm a child on purpose, so why do we put them in danger on the road?” asked Ali Al Barwani, the man in charge of the national road safety campaign.
“Our children are the most precious thing to us in the world, and all of us are building a good life for them. It’s not the money that is important, but our children. There is nothing more awful for a parent than losing their child.
“If you are in an accident with them, then your happiness will turn to sadness in just a few seconds,” he added.
“Once your son or daughter is gone, what then? How will you get them back? Once a life is gone, you can never get it back. Also, if you are in an accident, then you are also putting other people in danger. They are mothers and fathers and sons and daughters who have families of their own, and when they leave home in the morning, their families are waiting for them to return home.
“We had more than 600 people dead on Oman’s roads last year, and the education needs to change - this has to start from the very beginning, from birth,” he added.
Royal Oman Police has made it an offence to carry any child under four years of age without a proper car safety seat, and the new rule is being followed - but not by all.
Al Barwani launched the country’s national campaign to raise awareness about the importance and safety of child car seats in the southern city of Salalah.
Despite the best efforts by the ROP to enforce the child car seat law, accidents due to negligence continue to occur: four people, two of them children, lost their lives when two vehicles were involved in head-on collision on Saturday morning.
According to Oman’s revised traffic safety laws, which were instituted on March 1, 2018, not using a car seat for a child under the age of four will be a category four offence, which could result in a fine.
Repeated violations of this law will result in harsher penalties.
The rule is also in keeping with Article 217 of the Omani Penal Code, which states that a person who puts a child below seven years of age, or a vulnerable person, in a dangerous situation and/or abandons them shall be jailed for a minimum of three months, or up to one year. This sentenced can be doubled if the person committing the violation is a parent or guardian of the vulnerable individual.
“We have volunteers from the Oman Road Safety Association asking drivers on the road to install child car seats for their children, and yes, many are putting in seats for the young ones,” he said. “But you also get parents who give excuses as to why they don’t have car seats for small children, and this is not correct. The law is the law and it is there for a reason, so all of us have to follow it.
“When we ask them why they have not bought seats for small children, they tell us things such as car seats are not available near where we live, or we cannot afford car seats because they are too expensive,” he added.
“Sometimes, people tell us that their family is too large, so they cannot put car seats for everyone in the car, or that their children sometimes go with friends, so there is no car seat available in their vehicle.”
Al Barwani, though, was quick to dismiss these excuses, and called for those who hadn’t yet installed child car seats to do so, before they were found guilty of breaking the law.
“These days, you can buy car seats anywhere,” he explained. “Go to any big mall or any department store and you will find child seats available there. If you cannot go to a mall, the car seat will come to you, because you can order it online, as well. For those who say it is too expensive, you can get car seats with many options, so they can fit your budget.
“I think the main reason people don’t want to install the seat is because they think it is not important,” added Al Barwani. “But if it was not important, then the Royal Oman Police would not have made the law to protect the children. Yes, it will cause all of us some difficulty now, but when we see that deaths due to road accidents are falling, then we will see the benefit of this law.”
Al Barwani was speaking to Times of Oman before continuing on the next leg of the national car seat awareness campaign, which is currently being launched in Salalah, and will run until the 11th of this month.
“The reason we worked so hard to make this a law is because, according to studies done worldwide, the ordinary seat belt in cars is not enough to protect a small child when the vehicle is operating at high speeds,” he added. “After we finish our campaign in Salalah, we want to then go to Sur. It is also important that we target the interior areas, as well as Musandam in the north, so that we can spread this information to all areas and leave no place forgotten.”
According to the annual report released by the Royal Oman Police and Directorate General of Traffic, in Oman in 2016, one in every eight deaths on the roads was a child. Children under the age of 15 made up 12 per cent of all accident-related deaths, while accounting for 82 of the 692 fatal accidents that occurred. Additionally, 48 of the dead children were aged five or under, while, overall, 393 children were injured during the same period.
According to data from the National Centre for Statistics and
Information (NCSI), there has been a 41.9 per cent drop in accidents between June 2017 and June 2018. A total of 3,845 accidents took place in 2017, down from 4,721 in 2016, and 692 deaths and 3,261 injuries occurred due to accidents on the road in 2016, which dropped to 640 deaths and 3,134 injuries last year.
Times of Oman is also running a campaign, in collaboration with Landmark Group, to promote the public’s awareness about child car seats, and will be giving away 10 vouchers worth OMR50 each, for winners to purchase car seats with. To enter, like and comment ‘STRAP ‘EM IN’ on a social media post that will go up on the Times of Oman official Facebook page, and two winners will be selected at random at the end of the day.
“Times of Oman has been our media partners, and they have walked side by side with us during this car seat campaign, so we appreciate their efforts,” added Al Barwani.