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Experts and officials warn public against leaving children in vehicles unattended

Experts and officials warn public against leaving children in vehicles unattended
13 May 2024 08:30

SAEED AHMED AND HUDA TUNAIJI (ABU DHABI)

Experts and officials have issued warnings about the grave risks associated with leaving children unattended in vehicles, particularly during hot summer months. The rise in temperatures can lead to a rapid depletion of oxygen within the confined space of a car, leading to possible suffocation and death.

The recent tragedy in Sharjah, where a 7-year-old child’s life was claimed by such an oversight, has prompted officials to urge parents to only engage licensed and certified drivers for their children’s school commutes. The incident shed light on the critical need to vigilantly monitor children during their journeys to and from school, and the inherent dangers of neglecting this duty.

Investigations into the Sharjah incident revealed that the child’s parents had entrusted their children’s transportation to a female driver who, upon reaching the school, failed to ensure that all passengers had left the car, resulting in a young child being left behind in the locked car, only to be discovered dead at the day’s end.

The case highlighted a trend among some parents seeking to cut costs by hiring unlicensed drivers, unaware of the potential risks to their children’s safety. These drivers often don’t follow the stringent safety protocols mandated by authorities, thus compromising the wellbeing of the kids they are responsible for.

The Sharjah Police department emphasised that school buses are outfitted with comprehensive security and safety features and are under constant scrutiny by regulatory bodies. According to the police, parents who personally transport their children are more likely to ensure their utmost care and protection.

Brigadier General Ahmed Al-Sam Al-Naqbi, Head of the Traffic Awareness and Safety Team at the Ministry of Interior’s Federal Traffic Council, emphasised the importance of using authorised school buses, sanctioned by the Ministry of Education, for student transportation. These buses are equipped with smart technologies, undergo rigorous safety checks, and are monitored to ensure the highest safety standards. Supervisors on board ensure all students are accounted for and safely transported to and from their homes.

Al-Naqbi warned against the use of unlicensed drivers for student transport, citing the risks associated with their lack of compliance to legal and safety standards. These drivers may prioritise profit over safety, potentially violating traffic laws, including speeding,and overloading vehicles, which compromises student safety.

He urged parents and guardians to rely on officially sanctioned school transport services or personally ensure their children’s safe travel to avoid the dangers posed by irregular transportation means. The safety of children, he stressed, is a responsibility that must not be compromised.

Dr. Mona Ahmed Samaha, a paediatric specialist, highlighted the risks of leaving children unattended in vehicles. According to Dr. Samaha, the rapid increase in a child’s body temperature due to the car’s high interior heat can lead to fatal brain and organ damage.

She emphasised that within a mere 10 minutes, the temperature inside a parked car could rise by 11°C, and after an hour, it could exceed the external temperature by over 22°C. This poses a significant threat to children’s health, even on days that are not particularly warm, and slightly open windows do not ease this danger.

Dr. Samaha urged parents to never leave their children alone in a car, always check the vehicle’s interior before exiting and ensure that children are seated properly.

The Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC), in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority, launched the “Safety of Children in Vehicles Guide”, coinciding with the Emirati Children’s Day on March 15, 2024, providing precise guidelines, coupled with multiple strategies to prevent injuries to children and increase awareness among parents, caregivers, and providers.

Emirati national Obaid Ibrahim Al Ali emphasised the importance of personally transporting his children to school. Despite a demanding work schedule, Al Ali finds peace of mind in this daily routine, which is shared by his wife when he’s unavailable. He believes that accompanying his children strengthens family bonds and fosters a generation committed to tradition and national progress.

Similarly, Nasser Juma, another citizen, has taken on the responsibility of driving his children to school since their early years and plans to continue until they complete high school. Juma asserts that his involvement encourages his children to do better academically and provides them with a sense of security.

Both parents expressed concerns over the reliability of drivers, suggesting that direct parental involvement can prevent potential risks associated with transportation services, highlighting the UAE’s commitment to child protection laws, and advocating for more parents to consider personal involvement in their children’s daily commute.

Article (350) of the UAE’s Federal Penal Code mandates penalties for caregivers who endanger children’s safety. Specifically, leaving a child under seven unattended in a vehicle can lead to imprisonment or a fine up to Dh10,000.

This is reinforced by Federal Law No. (3) of 2016, known as Wadeema’s Law, which imposes imprisonment and a minimum fine of Dh5,000 for negligence leading to a child’s harm. The laws aim to shield children from life-threatening situations, such as suffocation due to high temperatures in parked vehicles, and uphold their right to physical and psychological wellbeing.

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