Road safety in Bahrain

Bahrain has one of the world’s highest rates of traffic collisions and scores of children are dying needlessly on the roads Discuss this article

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We have been known to giggle at the latest Gulf claim: the world’s tallest building, first underwater restaurant, scariest water slide. But here are some statistics we’re not laughing about.

The Gulf has the highest rate of road deaths per capita in the world, and traffic collisions are the number one cause of child death in the region. More than 600,000 kids were involved in road smashes between 2001 and 2007, resulting in the death of 470 children under the age of 14. Two thirds of that death toll involved infants and toddlers under four years old.

What’s particularly galling about these horrific figures is that many fatalities and serious injuries could have been prevented. Proper use of a car seat slashes the risk of serious injury or death, which is why we at Time Out are urging all parents to please buckle up their kids.

‘A car seat can be the difference between life and death in even a minor crash,’ says Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical adviser at Safe Kids Worldwide.

‘Car seats are 71 per cent effective in reducing the risk of injury and death for infants, and 54 per cent effective for toddlers. Booster seats are 69 per cent more effective than seat belts alone in protecting older kids,’ she adds.

Yet how many of us have seen kids clambering over each other and carrying on in the back seat, sitting unrestrained in the front passenger seat or – believe it or not – riding on the driver’s lap? There’s a sense of complacency and evident lack of awareness here, which must change.

Being belted up in a car is mandatory in the most countries in the region. Putting your child in a car seat is not – yet.

But why wait for a change in the law? It strikes us as strange that some parents, who obviously love their kids, would risk their lives in such a reckless manner. Even when driving at 50kph – and let’s face it, most of us don’t trundle along at that pace on Bahrain’s roads – the impact of a reasonably severe bump without a car seat or safety belt is equivalent to flinging your little one off the fourth floor of a building.

‘I must admit I was surprised to see so many children riding unrestrained in the very dense traffic and high speed roadways,’ says Walker. ‘Everywhere we went, we saw parents taking loving care of their children, so it was a bit of a shock to see them put at such risk in the family vehicle.’

Now we’ve (hopefully) convinced you to buy a car seat, it’s equally important to make sure you fit it, and use it, properly. Children should sit in the car seat with their backs and bums firmly supported against the seat back. Nothing should be placed under or behind them. The harness should come from below the shoulders for the rear-facing, semi-reclined infant and above the shoulders for the forward-facing, upright toddler. It should be tight so you cannot pinch any extra webbing once the harness is buckled.

Whatever method you use to fit your car seat – using the seatbelt, steel parts or tethers – it should not move more than an inch side to side or front to back. Once you have all that in position, be sure you drive safe.

By Karen Iley
Time Out Bahrain,

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