Need to fo­cus on chil­dren in road safety plan

Delhi Traf­fic Po­lice data shows that out of 1,690 peo­ple who died in road ac­ci­dents in Delhi last year, at least 5-7% were un­der the age of 15 years

Hindustan Times (Ranchi) - - Nation - HT Cor­re­spon­dent htre­porters@hin­dus­tan­times.com ■

NEW DELHI: A strong road safety plan for chil­dren and aware­ness among par­ents and guardians to en­sure the use of hel­mets and seat belts could be a be­gin­ning to re­duce the num­ber of deaths and in­juries of com­muters un­der 18 years of age on Delhi’s roads, ex­perts said.

A global sta­tus re­port by World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) said that in 2018, road crashes were the lead­ing cause of death among chil­dren and young adults, be­tween the age groups of 5 and 29 years.

Delhi Traf­fic Po­lice data shows that out of 1,690 peo­ple who died in road ac­ci­dents in Delhi last year, at least 5-7% were un­der the age of 15 years.

Road safety ex­perts said that safety of chil­dren on roads is an ex­ten­sion of the larger dis­re­gard for road safety among peo­ple, and the in­dif­fer­ence of gov­ern­ment agen­cies in strongly im­ple­ment­ing the traf­fic norms.

A. Murukesh, a road safety pol­icy re­searcher in a Sin­ga­pore­based re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion, said that un­like many cities abroad, in In­dia safety equip­ment such as wear­ing hel­mets and seat belts are yet to come nat­u­rally to peo­ple. The ig­no­rance and dis­re­gard of the im­pact is even more when it comes to chil­dren.

“I am yet to see In­dian par­ents use child re­strain sys­tems and booster seats in cars while trav­el­ling with their chil­dren. Any­where else in the world, this would be unimag­in­able and this doesn’t have to be done with the fear of be­ing pros­e­cuted by the po­lice,” Murukesh said.

Hin­dus­tan Times did a sur­vey of cer­ti­fied shops sell­ing hel­mets and mo­tor equip­ment in cen­tral Delhi’s Karol Bagh and south Delhi’s La­j­pat Na­gar and found that hel­mets for chil­dren are not eas­ily avail­able in any of the shops.

If any­one wants to pur­chase a

I am yet to see In­dian par­ents use child re­straint sys­tems and booster seats in cars while trav­el­ling with their chil­dren. Any­where else in the world, this would be unimag­in­able and this doesn’t have to be done with the fear of be­ing pros­e­cuted by the po­lice. A. MURUKESH, ex­pert

small hel­met, they will have to place an or­der at least a week in ad­vance.

“No one buys it. What peo­ple want is what we sell. In fact, hel­mets for women also has a lim­ited range. No doubt that hel­mets are a means of safety but it is not that we don’t sell it and that is why peo­ple don’t wear it. It is the other way round,” said Saleem Ahmed, owner of a mo­tor­cy­cle gear shop in Karol Bagh.

Ahmed says hel­mets for chil­dren be­gin from ₹2,500, mainly be­cause of a lack in de­mand.

Apart from the non-avail­abil­ity of hel­mets, none of these shops have the ex­per­tise to fix a child re­strain­ing sys­tem in cars, which al­lows fix­ing seats for in­fants in cars and hold­ing them with ad­justable seat belts.

The newly im­ple­mented Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles Amend­ment Act has brought about safety mea­sures for chil­dren on roads, but the prob­lem is the lack of im­ple­men­ta­tion by agen­cies.

The new set of rules make it manda­tory for chil­dren above the age of 4 years to wear hel­mets while rid­ing two-wheel­ers and for chil­dren above the age group of 14 years to wear seat belts or have some kind of child re­straint sys­tem even while sit­ting on the rear seats of cars. Fail­ing to do so will at­tract fines worth R1000.

How­ever, since the com­ing of the new law, in Septem­ber this year, there is yet to be any ev­i­dent ac­tion against such vi­o­la­tors by the Delhi Traf­fic Po­lice.

“Pros­e­cu­tions for even the reg­u­lar vi­o­la­tions are be­com­ing dif­fi­cult. Let there be some clar­ity from the Delhi gov­ern­ment first,” a se­nior traf­fic of­fi­cial said.

The Delhi gov­ern­ment is yet to no­tify the new mo­tor ve­hi­cles act, which will give more clar­ity on the of­fences and the fines that can be com­pound­able (on-the spot challans) by the Delhi Traf­fic Po­lice.

A sur­vey con­ducted by road safety NGO SaveLife foun­da­tion in 2018 — it in­ter­viewed par­ents, young adults and ex­perts in Delhi-NCR, Mum­bai, Ben­galuru, Kolkata, Luc­know, Patna, Jaipur, Kochi, Guwa­hati and Chen­nai—showed that 75.7% peo­ple were not aware of child re­straint sys­tems. Out of the peo­ple who were aware, only 3.5% have used a child re­straint sys­tem and a booster seat at some point in time.

The sur­vey shows that only 20.1% of par­ent re­spon­dents own child hel­mets, even though 92.8% knew about the safety ben­e­fits of hel­mets.

Nandita Mahajan, a pae­di­atric sur­geon, said that es­ti­mates show that 20% of chil­dren in road ac­ci­dents can be saved if proper safety equip­ment is used.

“The im­pact of any ac­ci­dent is more on chil­dren, and most chil­dren who come af­ter se­ri­ous road ac­ci­dents have in­juries on the head. We have reg­u­lar ses­sions with schools to tell them the im­por­tance of hel­mets and seat belts,” said Mahajan.

WHO’s child road safety man­ual ex­plains that in case of a car ac­ci­dent, three types of col­li­sions oc­cur. The first is be­tween the ve­hi­cle and another ve­hi­cle or a sta­tion­ary ob­ject such as pole or a tree. The sec­ond hap­pens be­tween the un­belted oc­cu­pant and the in­te­rior of the car and the third col­li­sion hap­pens when the in­ter­nal or­gans hit the chest cav­ity or the skele­tal struc­ture. It said that the sec­ond kind of col­li­sion is the most re­spon­si­ble for in­juries and deaths among chil­dren and can be pre­vented with a child re­straint sys­tem.

“Ap­pro­pri­ate child re­straint sys­tems are specif­i­cally de­signed to pro­tect in­fants and young chil­dren from in­jury dur­ing a col­li­sion or a sud­den stop by re­strain­ing their move­ment away from the ve­hi­cle struc­ture and dis­tribut­ing the forces of a crash over the strong­est parts of the body, with min­i­mum dam­age to the soft tis­sues. Child re­straints are also ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing in­juries that can oc­cur dur­ing non-crash events, such as a sud­den stop, a swerv­ing eva­sive ma­noeu­vre or a door open­ing dur­ing ve­hi­cle move­ment,” the WHO man­ual said.

Doc­tors and road safety ex­perts ex­plained that in­fants and chil­dren be­low the age of 10 years need a child re­straint sys­tem that ac­com­mo­dates their size and weight, and can adapt to cope with the dif­fer­ent stages of their de­vel­op­ment.

The three-point lap and di­ag­o­nal seat-belt used by adults is not de­signed for chil­dren’s vary­ing sizes, weights, and the dif­fer­ent rel­a­tive pro­por­tions of chil­dren’s bod­ies. For in­stance, a smaller por­tion of a child’s ab­domen is cov­ered by the pelvis and rib cage, while a child’s ribs are more likely than an adult’s to bend rather than break, re­sult­ing in en­ergy from a col­li­sion be­ing trans­ferred to the heart and lungs: this in­creases chances of ab­dom­i­nal in­juries.

“The prob­lem is we do not con­sider

our chil­dren as sep­a­rate en­ti­ties in this coun­try. We do not recog­nise their pri­vacy by not giv­ing them sep­a­rate rooms, we do not want to buy tick­ets for them in pub­lic trans­port or for en­try into events. etc. The dis­re­gard for their safety on roads is an ex­ten­sion of this very at­ti­tude. A good child re­straint ab­sorbs the im­pact of ki­netic en­ergy and holds the child firmly to their seat in case of a car crash,” said Man­ish Updhyay, co-founder of a Mum­bai-based NGO ‘Svavalambh­a’, which works for the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of chil­dren in­volved in road ac­ci­dents.

Quot­ing find­ings of an in­ter­na­tional re­port, Updhyay said that a child up to 4 years of age, with a child re­straint in the rear seat, has an 80% less chance of in­jury in case of ac­ci­dents.

DOC­TORS AND ROAD SAFETY EX­PERTS EX­PLAINED THAT IN­FANTS AND CHIL­DREN BE­LOW THE AGE OF 10 YEARS NEED A CHILD RE­STRAINT SYS­TEM THAT AC­COM­MO­DATES THEIR SIZE AND WEIGHT

HT ARCHIVES

■ The new set of rules make it manda­tory for chil­dren above the age of 4 years to wear hel­mets while rid­ing two-wheel­ers and for chil­dren above the age group of 14 years to wear seat belts.

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