Buckle up for safety
Dr. Tasnim Mehbuba Bandhan: The installation and proper use of seatbelts for adults and child restraint systems inside vehicles have been the most important motor vehicle crash safety innovation that has contributed to a reduction in mortality around the world. Road traffic injuries are a critical, yet often overlooked, a public health issue that necessitates collaborative actions to be effective and viable. Road traffic systems are the most important and complicated, and thus the most dangerous, of all the systems with which people must deal daily. Road Traffic Collisions (RTC) are a primary cause of death, claiming the lives of over 1.3 million people every year, half of them is between the ages of 15 and 44. Over 50 million disjointed patients may suffer further injuries as a result of this. It is, however, frequently avoidable. Rising vehicle collision safety has lately resulted in a reduction in fatality rates.
Being buckled up during a crash serves to keep one safe and secure inside the car; being ejected totally from a car is almost always fatal. It works by maintaining a more static motion in the passenger despite a quick stop or shift in speed car. The seat belt usually stops this from happening. When the vehicle hits something or is hit by something, its inertia change that is an object’s tendency to move until something works against the motion of that object. Without the seat belt, occupants can be thrown into various parts of the interior of the car, or completely out of the car. When properly worn, a seat belt distributes the braking force across the wearer’s pelvis and rib cage. Because these two sections of the body are the sturdiest part and help to reduce the impact of the accident on the body. The seat belt is comprised of a webbed fabric that is sturdy but flexible enough to allow for a small amount of movement but to protect a person in a crash it needs to be a tight fit with a little stretch.
According to WHO, statistics show that seat belts save breathes and when used properly by reducing the chance of fatal injury to front-seat passengers by 45% and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50%. For those riding on the rear seats of the vehicle throughout crash motor vehicles, rear seat belts have 73% higher chances of preventing fatalities. Moreover, children, seemingly to be buckled 92% of the time once adults within the vehicle use seat belts and on the contrary 72% of the time once adults seem to be neglected it. Of the 22,215 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2019, 47% were not wearing seat belts. Seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives and could have saved an additional 2,549 people if they had been wearing seat belts, in 2017 alone.
Child restraints in automobiles are used in a wide range of countries; however, they are mostly limited to high-income countries. The child restraint system functions similarly to adult seatbelts. The usage of restraint is determined by the child’s age and weight: rear-facing chairs are best for young infants, while forward-facing restraints are best for infants and toddlers, and older children; booster seats with seatbelts are beneficial. Child restraints (car seats and booster seats) can reduce infant and toddler mortality in automobile accidents by 71% and 54%, respectively.
The present ‘Road Transport Act-2018’, only stated in the sub-section of the first part of section 49, “the passengers must follow the prescribed provisions regarding seatbelt fastening”. In this section, though it is prescribed to wear seatbelts and this ‘passenger’ means only the front seat passenger. Nevertheless, people from the back seat get injured more in case of a road accident. This is a serious issue that can cause a way more critical situation. However, it is recommended that, through this law, for all drivers, including the front and rear-seat passengers a usable seatbelt should be ensured. Along with this, the use of seat belts by all the vehicle occupants sitting in the vehicle would be a must at any cost. It could be brought under consideration to make the replacement of seatbelts is mandatory, as some vehicles do not have seatbelts for drivers and passengers as well. It would be a must that, if all the passengers are not properly secured with seat belts fastened and in a failed case of ensuring proper and restrained behaviour of all passengers in compliance with traffic laws the driver as well as the passengers of the vehicle should be made responsible.
In addition there is no mention about the child restraint system as in child seat inside the vehicle in RTA- 2018 whereas it is a very critical issue for the death of the children while road accidents. According to the international best practice guidelines for the movement of children, a child has to sit in a suitable place and safety management in the car consistent with his age, shape, and weight. An adult’s seatbelt does not provide adequate protection to a child. Therefore, children should be given the best protection by taking appropriate measures considering their vulnerable position. It is explicitly recommended that all children of a certain age, especially those under 12 years of age, be required to comply with certain provisions of the CRS-Child Restraint System.
The Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) has begun working on road safety issues by concentrating all of its efforts on introducing the section on child restraint systems. DAM has taken initiatives for the first time on road safety issue in Bangladesh through sensitizing the responsible personnel from the ministry and relevant departments to amend the Road Transport Act-2018. This year’s UN Global Road Safety Week (May 17-23) was commemorated by DAM under the slogan “Streets for Life”. “We demand safe seats for us in motor vehicle,” children participating in “Social Media Solidarity” organized by Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Health Sector asked on the occasion of UN Global Road Safety Week 2021 (May 17-23) on 19 May 2021. This is the first initiative that has been raised by children in Bangladesh for the child restraint system.
The writer is an advocacy officer (policy) of the health sector of Dhaka Ahsania Mission.