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Story | Research
30 October 2019

Car seats could have kept child crash victims safe, says Qatar doctor


Sidra Medicine treats 90 children critically injured in car accidents in space of six months

Ninety children have been brought to Sidra Medicine for treatment after suffering critical injuries in car accidents in the last six months, most of which could have been avoided had a car seat been used. 

Studies have shown that in car accidents, the use of car seats increases a baby’s chance of surviving by 70 per cent and avoids serious harm in older children by 50-80 per cent. Despite these facts, trauma and emergency teams in Qatar say car seats are still not being used by many parents who see them as “unnecessary” or “difficult to fit”. 

Dr. Muhalab Tajeldin, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Trauma at Sidra Medicine – a member of Qatar Foundation – pointed out that, worldwide, car accidents are the leading cause of death among adolescents. Of the 211 seriously injured cases brought to Sidra Medicine’s Children’s Emergency Department during the past six months, 43 per cent had been injured in car accidents.

We found four main reasons why parents, don't use car seats. The first is their misconception that there is no need for these seats in their car, followed by not using the car seats in the car for short distances.

Fatma Al-Mohammadi

The injuries sustained by the children in the majority of these cases would have been avoidable if a car seat or appropriate safety precautions had been used. 14 young children were critically injured, requiring immediate operation or admission to critical care. 

“Head injuries in children are the most common, and this is due to several reasons. One of them is because a child’s brain develops since birth and reaches 80 per cent of an adult-size brain by the time a child reaches two years of age,” Dr. Tajeldin explained. “Any wound in the head may result in severe bleeding and the loss of a large amount of blood, which can lead to death in some serious cases.” 

The use of car seats increases a baby’s chances of surviving a car accident by 70 per cent

The children’s emergency department in Sidra Medicine has an integrated highly skilled trauma team that specializes in treating children injured whether in car accidents or other types of injuries. Once a child arrives, the team is ready to assess their condition and provide the necessary medicines, blood transfusion or investigations like CT scans depending on the child’s condition, After the initial assessment, the trauma team responds to provide ongoing care such as immediate transfer to the operating theatre, intensive care or to the ward. 

Ms. Fatma Al-Mohammadi, a health educator at Sidra Medicine, explained that the hospital ran its first initiative on children's car seats in 2017, which aimed to positively influence people’s views about car seats and raise awareness of the potentially life-saving importance of using them through parent workshops and information sessions held at its Outpatient Clinic.  

“In our discussions at the workshops, we found four main reasons why parents, don't use car seats,” she says. “The first is their misconception that there is no need for these seats in their car, followed by not using the car seats in the car for short distances. 

“Children crying while placed in the seat prevents parents from placing them there, and this happens because they have not got into the habit of using the car seat from birth. The fourth reason is that parents feel car seats are difficult to use and install.” 

There are three main types of children's car seats, catering for children of different heights, weights, and ages. Rear-facing car seats are used for children aged up to three years; front-facing car seats are for children aged 3-7 years old; and booster car seats that help children aged seven years and above to use the car’s seat belts.” 

I urge parents to ensure their children are placed in car seats to ensure they are safe if an accident happens.

Mae Ahmed Al-Haroon

Ms. Al-Mohammadi said Sidra Medicine has partnered with the recently-launched national Child Passenger Seat Safety Program called ‘Ghalai’, which aims to encourage parents to use car seats. The program includes establishing car seat checking stations where parents can get help from a certified technician to install the car seats in their vehicles free of charge, and one of these will soon be based in Sidra Medicine.  

Qatari mother-of two Mae Ahmed Al-Haroon said: “I always make sure that my children sit inside the car in the places allocated to them.  

“My two-year-old son, Abdulla, always sits in his rear-facing car seat while my four-year-old son, Ahmed, sits on his front-facing car seat, and I constantly remind him to fasten his seatbelt. I urge parents to ensure their children are placed in car seats to ensure they are safe if an accident happens.” 

A 2018 World Health Organization report on road safety stated that road accidents cause 1.35 million deaths annually, and injuries caused by crashes have become the leading cause of death for children and young people aged of 5-29. 

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