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Legal loopholes, ignorance, endangers children’s lives (Part 2)

CHILDREN in Tanzania are ex- posed to danger every time they travel in vehicles, because most parents and guardians in the country lack awareness on the importance of using child restraints.

To make it worse, the law is silent on the issue, hence drivers are not compelled to use these ‘magic seats.’

This piece therefore tackles the issue in detail, so take your time as our writer, MAUREEN ODUNGA embarks on the second part of the story..... When a person is carrying a child in a vehicle, it is a must for the driver to have a child restraint in the car.

He pointed out that the proposal has already ap- peared for the first time before the Inter ministerial Technical Committee (IMTC), they have reviewed it and returned it for rectification before it appears for the second time and is moved to another stage.

Among issues, which have been brought to the attention by the IMTC is the proposed age of twelve; they have recommended that the area should be reviewed.

Thus, the current age which has been proposed for a parent to have a restraint is from an infant to the age of five years.

Whereas, Section 14 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania provides for every person’s right to live and protection of his life by the society in accordance with the law.

Section 9 (3) (a & b) bestows a duty and responsibility to every parent, which includes protecting the child from physical and moral hazards and provide guidance, care, assistance and maintenance for the child and assurance of the child’s survival and development.

Low uptake, lack of awareness a major setback A spot survey carried out by this paper at Kariakoo Market and Mlimani City, one of the biggest and busiest markets in East Africa and one of the largest shopping malls in the country respectively, revealed that most people visiting baby shops often go there to buy ordinary things such as clothes, toys and other gears.

The writer of this articles spent some time observing the trend of customers who visited the shops and discovered that they did not take interest to even take a glimpse of a rack that was lined up with different brands of baby car seats, despite their attractive colors and appearances.

Surprisingly enough, at the Kariakoo Market where an array of all sorts of products with categories of a similar nature are found along the same street with baby products, only one shop sells child car seats at a price range of 190,000/-to 500,000/-.

Abdullatif Mohammed, a shopkeeper at one of the baby product shops, observed that the reason child car seats are a rare commodity in the series of shops lined up at the Kariakoo Market is because customers are not interested in them.

He pointed out that most shops used to bring in child restraints, but after realizing that business was very slow, they stopped bringing in the protective gears.

The Assistant Mall Man- ager at Mlimani City GSM Shop, Mr Badran Sheikh, who also coordinates operations at its subsidiary at the Baby Shop, disclosed that more often than not, most of the customers who purchase baby car seats are foreigners and the upper middle class customers.

Mr Sheikh went on to note that very few people procure the seats and often is usually out of convenience, most likely when a person is travelling and they don’t want the company of a baby helper on the trip, which is the reason why they appear at the shop.

Baby Shop Mlimani City Brand Ambassador, Sameer Ally says that when they attend to customers, they usually try to talk them into looking at the possibility of buying the baby car seat, and to some extent people understand the importance, but the response in the buying habit is not appealing.

Ally noted that because of the cost, at times cus- tomers would respond that a child will be better off at home with a helper rather than buying the seat.

“We usually do demon- stration for our customers to create awareness on the importance of the seats for their children’s safety, some people have responded positively by buying them, and others would want to go and save money first and return later.

However, majority have been reluctant to actu- ally do the purchasing,” said Ally. Describing the kind of seats that the shops sell, he said for new born babies of up to one year, the seat is different.

They also have seats for six months to four years, and others from two years until when a child stops using a car seat.

He said that a newborn baby is not supposed to be seated upright because the backbone is not yet strong, so the kind of restraint allows the child to lie straight facing the seat of the vehicle.

According to Ally, in most cases the seats go with weight and height of the child.

Sometimes a child might be six months old but the weight is that of a year old child and vice versa.

“It is advised that a child car seat should be installed at the back seat on the left, depending on the position of the steering wheel, so that the driver will not be dis- tracted when observing the child,” stressed Ally.

The safety of the child is very important, therefore it is vital that policy makers speed up the process of having the important provision in our laws,” noted Ally.

Out of reach A Dar es Salaam Resi- dent, Franklin Masika, a fa- ther of a two-year-old daughter, discloses that much as he was aware of the importance of having a baby car seat in his vehicle, he thought that they were only for a certain class.

He arrived home one day from a work trip only to find that his wife had installed the seat in their family vehicle.

Knowing its price, he never dared to question how and where it came from, because he did not want to provoke any unusual situations.

Although he always wanted one for the safety of his child, he thought to himself that the safety gear was too expensive, considering that other pressing responsibilities are also waiting for his attention.

Masika pointed out that the reason his wife decided to purchase the restraint was because of the safety of their child, who is usually active moving up and down when riding in the vehicle.

“In order to ensure her safety, it demanded us to always ride in the company of someone else who will be holding the child to prevent any movements.” “When someone was holding her in the vehicle, usually she will be uncom- fortable and cry a lot, a sign of demands to be left free to move freely in the car,” says Masika.

He says that since the baby started using the car seat, the crying has stopped, and this is because the restraint provides comfort due to the cushions fitted on the sides and the ability to adjust its belt.

He further pointed out that not only does the child restraint offer comfort and safety to the child, but also the person(s) riding with the child in the vehicle do not have to strain much to control the movements of the child.

“Children are always happy playful souls wanting to move here and there, run up and down. I therefore encourage parents or guardians owning vehicles in one way or another to look for ways to possess a restraint for your safety and that of your child.

“Because it is the responsibility of the government to protect the lives of its people, therefore it has a duty to protect the lives of children. The child restraint aspect should be part and parcel of the provision in the protection of a child in the country,” stressed Masika.

He further said that child restraints are not luxury items, but rather protective gears which aim to protect the lives of children, therefore this matter should be handled with the weight it deserves.

Call for price reduction Grace Mlay, a mother of a three year old boy, points out that as much as she wants to install a child restraint in her car to ensure the safety of her child, the gadgets are too expensive.

“Currently, I have to pay for his school fees, transport fees and many other responsibilities which require my attention. If the price was a bit more affordable, I wouldn’t hesitate to get one.

“As the government is thinking of coming up with the law, this is the right thing to do, but they should also consider reducing the price so that ordinary people too can afford,” said Grace.

It has been estimated that road traffic accidents cost most countries 3percent of their gross domestic product. Funds which would have been spent on making roads safer.

But in turn are used to facilitate medical bills, funeral expenses, legal matters, loss of productivity and many more.

Thus, it is the duty and responsibility of the government, law enforcement organs and policy makers to ensure that the important provision on child restraint is immediately brought on board to ensure the safety of children.

For parents, with or without the law, their children’s safety when driving should be of paramount importance, because with children, road accidents are more deadly, since it takes very little force to send a child flying through a windshield.

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Mwandishi: MAUREEN ODUNGA

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