Star Attraction

13 Jun 2013
POSTED BY Y Magazine

As Oman footballer Ali al Habsi joins Y’s campaign for car safety seats, police in Dhofar admit a law is needed to protect our children, reports Kate Ginn

Road accidents in which children are killed or seriously injured are on the rise and legislation forcing parents to buckle up young ones in cars should be introduced, police have told Y.

New traffic laws are being drawn up and should include child restraints, according to a senior traffic police officer in the Dhofar region, who said it was possible that rear seat belts for all passengers would become compulsory as part of the revisions.

Abdullah Abu Bakar al Dhahab, First Lieutenant with the Royal Oman Police (ROP), told Y Magazine: “Accidents on the roads involving children and babies have increased.

“Using child car seats could be beneficial in helping reducing deaths or serious injuries.

“We would hope that a law making it necessary to use car seats is introduced in the new traffic legislation. It is necessary in our opinion.”

While police on patrol in the Dhofar region cannot fine parents for not using child seats, officers do routinely stop drivers travelling with unrestrained young passengers and warn them of the dangers, he added.

Lt al Dhahab was speaking as footballer Ali al Habsi, Oman national team goalkeeper, and Omani rally legend and founder of Safety First, Hamed al Wahaibi, visited the ROP Dhofar Governate HQ as the child car safety seat campaign went on tour.

Y Magazine is championing calls with the National Youth Committee (NYC) and Safety First for a law to make car seats mandatory in the whole of the Sultanate for children under the age of six. A similar law was introduced in the UAE two years ago.

While there, the two stars donated ten child car seats to be used by police officers with children, in the hope it will encourage colleagues and other parents to follow suit.

“I lost my cousin when he was 14 years old in a car accident,” says Hamed al Wahaibi.

“It has got to the point where everybody has lost somebody in Oman on the roads.”

During the trip to Dhofar at the weekend, the sporting heroes also went on stage at the new Salalah Gardens Mall in an event to promote road safety. Dozens of car seats were handed out to the audience, along with education and advice on looking after children in cars.

A similar event was held at Muscat Grand Mall a few days before, which both stars also attended.

Last year, 60 children aged between newborn and six were killed in accidents on Oman’s roads and a further 62 died in the 11-15 year old age group.

As a father to two young daughters Ali al Habsi, 31, who plays in the English Premier League, is only too aware of the need to keep children safe on the roads.

“In the UK, using a car seat is done without thinking. It’s just a normal thing to do.

“Everyone can make a difference, parents and individuals, by working together. I know that it will take time but I hope that one day it will change.”

Al Habsi, who has also lost family in traffic accidents, is co-founder of Safety First, a non-profit road safety organisation that seeks to decrease car accident fatalities in the country.

NYC’s Sayyid Nasr Badr Albusaidi, who has spearheaded the car seat campaign, said using celebrities helps to raise the profile of the cause and hammer home the message.

“Ali and Hamed have a great following. They have that ability to pull people in, the magnet effect. They can help us to achieve our objective much quicker.”

Illustrating the devastating consequences of not using child car seats, he told Y about one of his friends.

“He was involved in an accident driving to Barka and all of his family died. He lost his three children, aged two to six, and his wife. None of them were wearing seatbelts.

“He was the only one who survived. That was six or seven years ago and he is a different person to the guy I used to know. He is a broken man.”

More child car seats will be given away to parents in the coming months and car dealerships will also be targeted to sign up for the campaign.

“We have other laws on the road but no attention is given to children,” says Sayyid Nasr.

“Something has to change. It must change.”

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