Preventing the deaths and injuries of many young people in Qatar could be as simple as making sure they are properly strapped into vehicles before their parents get on the road, local healthcare officials have said.
During a recent workshop to discuss the health of children in Qatar, doctors said traffic accidents are a leading cause of death and disability among the young adult and child population.
Grim statistics of traffic accidents among children from 2010 to 2012 were shared by Dr. Ayman El-Menyar, Director of the Integrated Clinical Research Unit of HMC’s Trauma Center, who said in a statement:
“Eighty-six percent of the children who died during those years had injuries so severe that they died even before reaching the hospital, or at the scene of the crash.
Forty percent of victims of all transport-related injuries, and 80 percent of victims who died from their injuries, were 15 to 18 years old. The data also shows that only 1.2 percent of the injured passengers and drivers were using seat belt or a car seat.”
Previously, doctors in Qatar said that more than half – some 54 percent – of deaths among children up to four years old here are caused by traffic accidents, but that many of the deaths are preventable with the use of carseats.
Buckling up children in these seats is a subject of much debate among residents here.
Some people are skeptical about their use, citing the costs involved in buying the seats or saying that their children don’t like to be restrained while in moving vehicles.
Qatar’s National Health Strategy 2011-2016 calls for providing mothers of newborns with car seats at the time of their discharge from the hospital, but it is not illegal here for small children to ride in a vehicle unrestrained or on their mothers’ laps, a common sight on Doha roads.
However, it is against the law for kids under 10 years old to sit in the front seat. Enforcement of this rule, though, does not appear to be strict.
Alluding to this issue, workshop participant Dr. Abdulla Al Kaabi, Executive Clinical Lead for the Office of Corporate Child Health Planning, said in a statement:
“Unfortunately, many people don’t really understand the magnitude of this problem. Not only do they continue to drive without seat belts, but they also allow their children to sit on the front seat, or stand and move around inside the car, instead of putting them in the backseat where it is safer and restraining them with seat belts or car safety seats suitable for their age.”
In recent years, Qatar’s medical community has been working to encourage parents to buckle up their children.
Last December, Hamad Medical Corp. began training the nation’s first carseat technicians, to help educate parents on proper usage of the seats.
Doctors said they were motivated to train 100 volunteers after noticing that a recent free carseat campaign lacked a critical educational component – namely, parents did not know what to do with the seats after taking them home.
Meanwhile, in August, HMC’s trauma department was awarded nearly $2 million in grant funding, in part to look into how to increase the use of child safety seats in Qatar.
At the time, a doctor involved in the research project stressed the urgency of educating Qatar’s public on the benefits of seat belts and car seats for kids, saying:
“Our preliminary research in Qatar showed that among our young victims of road trauma, serious injury and death only occurred in those who were not restrained.
The youngest road users in Qatar often bear the brunt of the decisions of parents and caregivers; it is high time that we prioritized the safety of our most precious cargo.”