Hindustan Times (Ranchi)
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
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