By Bindu Suresh Rai www.emirates247.com
RTA plans child safety initiative next month even as no cab company in the city provides vehicles equipped with infant car seats.
Taxis in Dubai are simply not child friendly, is the general consensus amongst several residents in the emirate, with not a single cab company driving nearly 7,000-odd taxis on the roads providing vehicles equipped with infant car seats.
The revelation comes at a time when last week’s report by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) indicates that traffic accidents are the leading cause of infant mortality in the UAE and account for 63 per cent of all child deaths.
“It is shocking to see that while such advancements in technology and architecture have been made here, people have failed to provide the one thing that is vital for any country to survive – the safety of its young population,” said Anita Singh, a mother of a two-year-old boy.
Singh, who recently moved to Dubai, discovered this hard way when her child’s infant seat was delayed in shipping, along with her car, forcing her to rely on public transportation for a while.
“One day in Sheikh Zayed Road rush hour was enough for me to purchase another car seat before my son’s original one arrived. I simply could not risk his life with manic drivers on the roads,” she said.
Like Singh, several other frustrated parents have similar stories to share. Research indicates that child car seats are recognised as the most effective method of reducing infant mortality in the event of a traffic accident, with fatal injuries by up to 71 per cent.
Investigating the claims, Emirates 24|7 placed a call to Dubai Taxis, which are a part of the government’s Roads and Transport Authority. A friendly voice duly informed us that while they have special lady-driven cars and vehicles for the disabled, unfortunately no vehicle came equipped with an infant car seat.
A call to Metro Taxis and Cars Taxis also did not bear fruit, with the operator at the latter company requesting us to check with National Taxis, who possibly provide vehicles with infant car seats at Dubai Airport. That was not the case however.
When quizzed about this, Peyman Parham Younus, Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications for the RTA, said: “The RTA is launching a safety initiative before the year-end, which will address such issues. It is still too early for us to reveal the plans.”
However, when prompted further if this initiative would focus on child safety in vehicles, Younus agreed and said it would address the issue, yes.
He added: “The RTA has already been part of campaigns where we are promoting greater awareness in child safety and educating families on the importance of infant car seats.
“And not just us, but hospitals and family planning centres are also working with government authorities in educating parents on child safety.”
Younus said that while he can only speak on behalf of the RTA run Dubai Taxis, their drivers are trained in safety measures and to adhere to UAE law, which states that children are not allowed to sit in the front seat and those under the age of 10 years need to be strapped in, in the backseat.
He added that demand for infant car seats was still quite limited but every niche market was being met by authorities here.
“There was a demand for female only taxis, and we launched the Pink Cabs driven by women; similarly, there was a demand for disabled-friendly taxi services and we launched those vehicles too. Maybe infant car seats are not such a big criteria because most families these days have one purchased even before they leave the hospital with their babies,” he said.
Unfortunately, this still did not address the demand of Dubai’s growing tourist population who could also demand a similar service, which Younus agreed was a gap in the market.
However, he disagreed with Singh’s argument that investment into its growing population has been neglected here. He said: “Compared to other developed nations, we are still quite a young country and the type of services offered here could always be enhanced. But we are rounding the curve much faster, and if you look at the growth chart of the UAE, its advancements are a lot more in a much limited time.”
In other news, last week, DHA signed an agreement with General Motors to support Dubai’s Child Injury Prevention Strategy. Chevrolet is working with the government body to train maternity nurses in child car safety at Al Wasl Hospital and donate 500 premium child car seats to parents of newborn babies.
Are cabs world over child friendly?
New York: According to the state website and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, drivers of yellow medallion taxicabs and for-hire vehicles and their passengers, are exempt from laws regarding car seats and seatbelts.
London: The famous London Taxi Cab Company provides certain vehicles that come equipped with infant car seats, on request. However, each vehicle also features a built-in child restraint harness.
Mumbai: Barring the newer taxi companies such as Meru, it would be surprising to even find a cab in Mumbai that comes equipped with a seatbelt.
Sydney: Fleets such as Lime Taxis in Sydney provide infant car seat services, with Australian law stating that children under 12 months need to be strapped in.