A raft of amendments to the Federal Traffic laws include a fine of Dh400 and four black points for anyone driving with a child under four who is not strapped into a car safety seat.
Until now it is has not been mandatory to use a car seat for infants or children in the UAE, and many families choose to hold their babies or toddlers in their laps, which has been a point of great concern for many.
“Motor-vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death among children," says Peter Makowski, CEO, American Hospital Dubai. "In Dubai’s fast-moving traffic, it is highly critical for parents to ensure that their children are properly secured with age- and weight-appropriate child safety seats to prevent any fatal injuries.
"Car seats protect by spreading the crash forces over a wide area, slowing down the body, and protect vital body parts such as head, neck and spine. In case of an infant, it is highly recommended as babies do not have well-developed neck and spine and their skull bones are not fused. We strongly urge all new parents who are taking their new-born babies home to use rear-facing car seats.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), a child safety seat can reduce the risk of death in infants up to the age of one by 71 per cent and in children between the age of one and four by 54 per cent.
It is important to ensure that you are using the correct car seat for your child's age and weight, and that the car seat if fitted properly. Car seats may be rear-facing or forward-facing, and can be secured using a harness or a safety shield. The latest European guidelines recommend that children remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are four years old, while new American guidelines recommend children remain rear-facing until they are two. For the World Health Organisation's guidelines on car safety seats for children see here.
There were reportedly 725 deaths from car accidents in the UAE, and the new laws are part of an initiative to try to reduce road-related deaths in the UAE to three per 100,000 people. The new amendments also include a fine of Dh400 and four black points to the driver for every passenger in the car who is not wearing a seatbelt, and specify that front-seat passengers must be at least 145cm tall and not younger than 10 years old. The new laws are expected to be implemented from July 1.