New Vision (Kampala)

21 November 2012

Uganda: How Safe Is That Thrill From a Ride?

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga wants the police to implore bodaboda cyclists to wear helmets. ( Resource: Uganda Govt Implores Police on Road Carnage

Whereas it is a joy for a child to be picked up from school in a car, that excitement could easily turn into misery if you do not seat the child safely as you drive, Rebecca Nalunga writes

Passengers are sometimes seen cradling a toddler on their lap, a child may be throwing a tantrum, playing with the controls of the car or simply sleeping. Such is a common sight in the cars on our roads.

The older children get a thrill from the wind blowing in their faces as they playfully stick their heads, or spread their arms out of the window, in wild abandon, as if to catch the elusive wind.

It is exciting for children standing at the back of a pick-up truck, as the car speeds along, with the wind blowing through their hair, against their faces and throwing their fabric up.

While all this is happening, the drivers of these vehicles are often concentrating on the road or the phone, carelessly hitting humps and potholes that disrupt the car's stability. They are oblivious of the risk they pose to their young passengers.

In a country like ours, where road carnage claims more and more lives everyday, one would assume that drivers travelling with children would take extra caution to ensure their safety, but alas that is not the case!

James Ruhweza Akiiki, the divisional Police commander of Central Police Station, says careless postures of children in moving vehicles puts their lives at a very high risk.

"It is forbidden by the Ugandan traffic laws for one to drive while cradling a child on their lap or bossom as the driver will be distracted," he says.

"A toddler should be placed in a car seat and firmly strapped into the back seat with a seat belt to ensure their comfort and safety."

He further advises that a child lock be placed immediately children sit in the car to avoid them fiddling with, and eventually opening the car doors as it moves. Children can be very curious and if one is not keen, they might be unpleasantly surprised when the child opens the door and falls out of the moving vehicle.

It is dangerous for children to stick body parts out the windows of moving vehicles as they could get smashed by other cars, bikes or other stationary objects on the road. Rolling up the windows and using the central locking system is an effective way to prevent this.

In cases where boda bodas are the means of transport, Ruhweza says not more than one child should be on the bike and a helmet should be provided to ensure their safety.

"To sit a child at the front of the bike is very risky because unlike a car, the bike has no body. So the child seated at the front acts as the body and should an accident occur, the child will feel the impact first.

Also, that is where the fuel tank is located and if it catches fire, the child will blow up first.

Failure to comply with these traffic laws is punishable by a fine," he explains.

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Child safety tips

Always inspect behind and beside the car before backing out, even if your child is buckled in, his friend may be back there to see him off.

Instruct children to stay seated while the car is moving, otherwise they can be hurt if brakes are applied suddenly.

Double check to see to it that the baby seat is buckled in. Car seats when used wrongly can be more harmful than not using them

Never allow a child under 12 in the front seat because of possible injury from air bags.

Never allow breakable glass items, sharp objects or flammable materials in the passenger area of the car.

Secure all heavy items with cargo nets or straps so they will not fly around in an accident.

Make sure your car is equipped with driver-controlled windows and door locks so children cannot open them even if they want to.

No matter how much fun it is, never allow children to stick anything out the window while the car is moving.

Never leave children unattended in the car, particularly in the sun. They can be killed by the heat, abducted by a kidnapper, accidentally release the brakes or can get out and be run over in the parking lot.

If your car came with an electric lighter, remove it.

Note: It is normal to be a little anxious about your children's safety. The fact is, no matter how careful you are, they will have accidents, get hurt and get sick.

Knowing this, it would not hurt to ask for a little more help than these tips can offer.

The biggest child safety tip I can think of is to get help and wisdom from God. He can protect, heal and help you with the child safety anxiety all parents have.

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