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Words: Kate Ginn
The car is mangled almost beyond recognition, a wreckage of twisted metal with debris from the crash scattered across the road, glass and bits of plastic and a child’s shoe.
Somewhere amid that devastation will be the driver, passenger and their child. Whether they are alive or dead won’t be known until the fire crew arrives to cut them out of the ruined remains of what was once a car.
If the young child has not been strapped into a car seat then they are in all likelihood already beyond saving.
This is the scenario that can greet emergency services as they arrive at the scene of a road traffic accident.
As Y continues a campaign with the National Youth Commission (NYC) calling for a law to make car seats compulsory in the Sultanate, bringing us in line with the UAE, a health and safety expert describes the devastating aftermath of road traffic accidents.
Stephen Parr, a consultant at the Modern Gulf Institute in Muscat, which runs training courses and workshops, has seen first-hand scenes such as the one described above. A former firefighter in the UK, he would often be the first on the scene at car crashes, where people were still trapped inside or, worse, dead.
“I can tell you what it smells like, I can tell you about picking up body parts and trying to identify someone from dental records alone because there isn’t enough left.
“I’ve been to crashes where children have died and I’ve seen what happens to them when they haven’t been strapped in. It’s not something that you ever want to see or can ever forget.”
Parr talks about what happens when a car stops suddenly with a child not restrained in the front or back.
“If the child is not secured, they will be ejected forward. At 40 km/h, the body mass increases by 40 times so if the mother is holding the baby in her lap, [her weight] would be like the size of a small elephant hitting the baby. The baby would be crushed.
“If the airbag is deployed, the weight of the mother could crush or kill the baby.
“If the baby is in the back of the car, they could be thrown forward and hit the centre console or windscreen. Because the windscreen is laminated, it doesn’t break but cracks when something hits it.
“The skull will crack, the neck will be broken and the face will be shaved off from the splinters of the windscreen.
“In most cases, I will just be bagging and tagging.”
The hardest outcome of a car crash is if the parents or parent lives but a child dies.
“Breaking the news is the hardest thing,” says Parr.
“People never get over losing a family member and the grief and guilt if you have caused it can be overwhelming.”
Don’t let this be you. Buckle up your children in a car seat, which can cost as little as RO19, and save their lives.
• For more information on road safety in Oman go to: www.salimandsalimah.org and http://awladnaoman.com
Modern Gulf Institute: www.moderngulf.com
Here a young girl called Fatma who was involved in a car accident tells her story.
A day I will never forget. My mom was on her way home from work and at that time she picked me up from school. She was taking her usual route home when I tapped her and said in a calm voice, “Mama there is a car coming and it is on our side of the road.” Now her first instinct was to put the car in reverse but she did what she thought was best and she pulled over. By the time her passenger tyres had touched the kerb, we were hit head on with the loudest impact you could ever imagine. I was scared. All I could hear my mother saying was “Oh Lord please don’t take my baby.” My mother rolled over and the pain tore through her body. She told me ‘I love you’ and to hang on, help would get us out of there.
We had to be extracted from the car; I was taken out first, then my mother. Removing my mother was the most difficult because the engine had come in and crushed her from the waist down. The driver who had caused the accident was rushed from the scene to a nearby hospital. He was fighting for his life. My mother had emergency surgery to save her right leg and foot, but it was not until the next day we were told that the driver of the other car had passed away. Doctors told my mother that she would not walk again. Luckily she has recovered enought to walk again. The other driver’s life was taken because of reckless driving. But we are still here and the man’s family still missing and grieving for him. If you have to drive recklessly, do it on the racing tracks. Don’t come out on the roads and destroy someone else’s life, including yours.
(Courtesy of Awladna campaign in Oman)
HOW TO BE SAFE
Birth – 12 months
A child under age one should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
1 – 3 years
Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
4 – 7 years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
8 – 12 years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
Description (Restraint Type)
A REAR-FACING CAR SEAT is the best seat for your young child to use. It has a harness and in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.
A BOOSTER SEAT positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child’s body.
A FORWARD-FACING CAR SEAT has a harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement during a crash.
A SEAT BELT should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest to restrain the child safely in a crash. It should not rest on the stomach area or across the neck.