Child Safety: A Parental Responsibility!!!

Dated: 01/12/2012

Are you a parent? Single or double, if you know what I mean? Do you have kids? Have you ever lost a child through a road crash? Do you own a car or cars? Two,three or just one car? How do you transport your child in that car? What is the value of the car or cars? Are they like mine? Tokunbo or tear rubber? Please forgive me for these questions. They are necessary in laying the foundation for today’s discussion WHICH IS ON CHILD SAFETY…

As a parent,or guardian,do you know of the provisions of section 58(4) of the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2004 which makes it mandatory for all occupants of a vehicle to use a seatbelt for their safety? Do you know that this provision covers children also? When I stressed you with those questions, I merely wanted to challenge your consciousness to the dangers we expose our children to, despite our claim that we love and cherish them so much. Most of us who have heeded the Federal Road Safety Corps’ call to use seat belt, unfortunately do not see any sense in protecting our children while driving by strapping them. Some lap them.

Others leave them unattended to in moving vehicles. Some claim strapping these kids in a car seat is alien. This group maintain that strapping children in a car is meant for the whiteman not a blackman. I believe this group knows what they are saying, afterall,these vehicles were manufactured in Oshodi by our Engineers. Others say the cost for a car seat is high even though the cheapest among these cars cost as low as 500,000 naira while others go for as high as 5 million naira, compared to car seats which range from just about 25,000 naira for the protection of the life of God’s precious gift. These same parents would not mind hanging out with friends and business partners to spend thousands on drinks, pepper soup and other extras.The female ones would prefer spending thousands of naira on designer shoes and bags, but not on the safety of their children.This is what we call choices. It has been over NINE years since the Corps came up with the seat belt driving culture. Yet observation shows that a greater percentage of parents and guardians don’t care about child safety. Daily, these children, whether in school buses or family vehicles, are transported without any iota of safety. This worry prompted the Federal Road Safety Corps, Arrive Alive, Child Safety Foundation and El-elyon to birth the idea of a child passenger safety campaign in Lagos with the theme,’’dont kill the child, kill the bad habit’’ aimed at raising safety awareness on children safety.

This is because,road safety crisis is the leading cause of preventable death; the 3rd largest cause of disabilities. In Africa it is the 2nd largest cause of death after aids/HIV in the same Africa, there is generally no costing data making cost of crashes difficult to estimate except for few countries. A study has shown that 10% of global road deaths occurred in Africa though only 4% of world’s registered vehicles are in the continent. This study posits that if reporting of road crashes were to improve, the road crash index in the continent will be different as it most likely would show more deaths. South Africa and Nigeria, according to this study accounts for most of the reported deaths.

These deaths, according to the study are caused mostly by human error, and vehicle factors that include the following; overspeeding, dangerous overtaking, alcohol and drug abuse, negligence of drivers, poor driving standards, overloaded people or goods vehicles, poor tyre maintenance, burst tyre, bad roads and hilly terrain, negligence of pedestrians, distraction of drivers by passengers, cell phone use among others.

The truth is that the world is concerned about child safety.this is because road traffic injuries alone are the leading cause of death among children 15-19years and the second leading cause among 10-14 years old. These injuries are not inevitable.they are preventable.ironically most parents are notconcerned, going by their actions behind the wheels.signs of these concern are legion.

Recall that the 1989 United Nations convention on the rights of the child, ratified by almost all government, states that children around the world have a right to a safe environment, and to protection from injury and violence. The convention stresses the responsibilities of society to protect children (from birth up to the age of 18years).the 2000 united nations millennium development goals resolution sets as its fourth goals, the need to reduce by two thirds the mortality rates of children under the age of 5 years.

In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly held a special session on children, from which a document, a world fit for children, was produced. This document sets out a number of health goals for children. One of such goals which is specific to injuries calls on all member states to,’’reduce child injuries due to accidents or other causes through the development and implantation of appropriate measures.’’ in 2005, the same who and UNICEF issued calls for greatly expanded global effort to prevent child injury. This was followed in 2006 by who’s ten year plan of activities on child injury.

In addition,the WHO/UNICEF in 2008 in a report, titled, world report on child injury prevention, expressed concern that every day around the world, the lives of more than 2000 families are torn apart by the loss of a child to an unintentional injury or so-called ‘’accidents’’ that could have been prevented…’’it noted that children injuries have been neglected for many years. Children’s maturity and their interest and needs differ from adults, the report further stated.therefore; simply reproducing injury prevention strategies that are relevant to adult does not adequately protect children, it warned. The report affirmed that there are proven interventions such as child seat which is the trust of this campaign.

Others include, cycling helmets, child- resistant packaging for medications, fencing around swimming pools, hot water tap temperature regulations and window guards, to name a few
The above is proof that children, your children and our future leaders rank high in the vulnerable user graph? This is why this column is focused on raising our sensibilities on making the roads safer and in emulating global safe practices in the United Kingdom, for instance, the authorities were alarmed by what it describes as “disastrous” figures for 2006 vulnerable road users particularly children. Statistics in that year showed big increase in death among child pedestrians (up 13%) and child pedal cyclist (up 55%) as a well as a five percent jump in motorcycle (okada) fatalities. The picture is not different in Nigeria particular Lagos where a special child safety campaign to raise the safety consciousness of this group commenced last week with road shows,advocacy to schools,religious organisations and media houses lined up to run all year.

Motor crashes remain the leading cause of unintentional injury related deaths among children ages 14 and under. However, the wearing of seatbelts could prevent many of these deaths and serious injuries. Thus, over the last 25years, it is conservatively estimated that in highly motorized countries about 310,000 fatalities and more that 9 million moderate to critical injuries have been prevented through wearing of seatbelts. Even in a safety conscious country such as the united state of america, it is though that in the year 2003 more that 7000 lives were lost and over 140,000 people injured unnecessary because they failed to wear their seatbelts.

Seatbelts of course, do not prevent an accident-taking place. They do however, play a crucial role in reducing the severity of injury to vehicle occupants involved in an accident. Vehicle safety features are distinguished by two categories; “primary safety and secondary safety”. Primary safety features aim to prevent an accident taking place e.g. good brakes, tyres. Secondary safety features aim to prevent or minimize injury to a vehicle occupant once the accident has occured.

Seatbelts are a secondary safety device with a number of objectives which includes; preventing ejection from the vehicle in an impact, reducing the risk of contact with the interior of the vehicle or reducing the speed of such impacts, providing a distributed force to the wearer to give the necessary support in an accident restraining the vehicle occupant before guiding them back into their seats.

The effectiveness of the use of seatbelts is no longer in doubt as studies conducted throughout the world since the 1950’s have shown conclusively that seatbelt when worn and fitted correctly, save lives. Users of safety belts sustain approximately 35 percent less ‘major-fatal’ grade injuries than did non-users. Another study by Nordisk Trafiksikker Hedsrad (1984) calculated that ‘drivers and front seat passengers who do not use seatbelts suffer almost the same percentage of head injuries as non-users in rear seats’. Therefore, use of seatbelt by rear seat passengers could not only reduce the likelihood and severity of injury to themselves, but also to drivers and/or front seat passengers.

In the case of Nigeria, the Federal Road Safety Corps, avowed commitment has raised compliance by a range of techniques including education, workshops, stakeholders meetings, publicity and enforcement. However, despise these commitment, compliance to seat belt usage has dropped both at day and nighttime driving. Statistics from Lagos show that seat belt compliance is high although compliance drops mostly at nite and during weekends. What can be deduced from the foregoing is that most motorist still take the issue of seatbelt with levity while use of car seat is totally ignored by over 99% of motorists.

As 2012 gradually winds up, vehicular and human traffic will naturally increase. Meanwhile,children will of course be traveling with their parents and their safety forms the main thrust of this piece. While much can be said about awareness and some level of compliance of the use of seatbelt in Nigeria, with Lagos ranking high, not much can be said about the use of child restraint as most parents who default in the use of seat belt for their safety also care less about how they carry their children in vehicles even while traveling long distance.

Section 58 (3&4) of the National Road Traffic Regulations 2004,earlier cited, specifies the use of seat belt by all occupants in a vehicle. This section therefore covers child seat or restraint. However, many of us as parents or guardians rarely bother about the safety of our children? Do we know that the safest way to carry a child and to protect that child is to use a child seat that is suitable for their weight and size? Do we also know that even in a minor crash, an unrestrained child would be thrown from the car through one of the windows?

Do we also know that in a crash at just 30 km/ph, an unrestrained child would be thrown forward with a force 30 to 60 times, their body weight? They would be thrown about inside the vehicle, injuring themselves and quite seriously injuring (or even killing) other people inside the vehicle. They are also likely to be ejected from the car through one of the window. Do we know also that it is not safe to hold a child on our lap? That in a crash, the child could be crushed between your body and part of the car’s interior? That even if you were using a seat belt, the child would be torn from your arms, and that you would not be able to hold onto them, no matter how hard you try. Do you also know that it is also dangerous to put a seatbelt around yourself and a child or around two children? Or to carry that child or children in the front passenger seat or on your tommy as most of us do especially during school runs or rush hours? That the safest way for children to travel in cars no matter the distance is in a child seat, that is suitable for their weight or size.

An approximately child restraint is one, which conforms to the United Nations standard ece regulations 44-03, suitable for the child’s restrain are divided into categories, according to the manufacturers instructions. Child restraints are divided into categories, according to the weight of children for whom they are suitable. These correspond broadly to different age group, but it is the weight of the child that is most important when deciding what type of child restraint to use. Some child restraints are capable of being converted as the child grows and therefore fit into more than one group or stage.

For example the rearward-facing baby seats is for babies up to 10kgs (22ibs) roughly from birth to 6-9 months or for babies up to 13kg (29ibs) roughly from birth to 12-15 months. These two can be used in the front or rear of the car. It is safer to put them in the rear. Do not put them in the front passenger seat if there is a passenger airbag. Rearward-facing seats provide great protection for the baby’s head, legs and spine than forward facing seats. So it is best to keep your baby in the rearward-facing seats for as long as possible. Only move them to a forward –facing seat once they have exceeded the maximum weight for the baby seat or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat.

The forward-facing child seat is for children weighing 9-18kgs (20-40ibs) roughly from 9 months – 4 years. Once children have outgrown a rearward –facing seat, the best option is to use a giving (babies from birth to 15 months) seat with an integral harness – the large area of the harness helps to reduce the risk of injury if there is a crash – the bottom attachment between the legs will also prevent the child from sliding under and out of the harness. They can be used in the front or rear of the car, but it is safer to put them in the rear, especially if there is a passenger airbag in the front.

Once again, it is safer to keep children in this type of system until they have outgrown it. Only move your child to a booster seat once they have exceeded the maximum weight for the child seat or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat. Booster seats and booster cushions are used for children. Modern booster seats are designed for children between 15kg and 36kg (33-72ibs) i.e. 4-11 years.

The law requires children traveling in cars to use the correct restraint until they are either 135cm in height or the age of 12 (whichever they reach first). After this, they must use an adult seatbelt. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the children under the age of 14 years are restrained correctly in accordance with the law.

However, it is the responsibility of the individual passenger to ensure that they are wearing the seatbelt at the age 14 years and above. The safest option is to carry the same number of passengers, as there are seat belts. If must carry a passenger for whom there is no seatbelt, it is better for the heaviest passenger to wear a seat belt because they would cause more severe injuries to other people in the car, if they are thrown out in a crash.

Ideally, like in the UK, the passenger should face the penalty for defaulting. This is in addition to its effect on claims by the driver against motor insurance cover. This is why the servicom-dfid road safety pilot scheme is commended because of its drive to raise the consciousness of motorist, insurance practitioners and law enforcement agents on the need for proper insurance cover for vehicles. We must however note that the most serious penalty of all for non-compliance with seatbelt or child restraint of all could be that you, your passenger or your child losses their life

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