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September 02, 2016

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UAE Residents Called on to Photograph Children Not Buckled up in Cars

Residents have been asked to take photographs of cars where a child is on the driver's lap or in the front seat, and report it to police.

Khaled Al Kamda, director general of Dubai's Community Development Authority, said the move would hopefully teach parents the responsible way to drive their children.

"Putting a child in a driver's lap places the child in a dangerous situation," he said. "It is part of our moral duty to ensure a child is protected and if we see behaviour endangering a child it should be reported.

"But one condition is the report and any photos should be sent only to the authority.

"It is part of our responsibility to create responsible citizens. There is no argument against reporting a situation where a child's life is in danger.

"If he sits on his father's lap and the father is driving, police will take severe action."

The Child Protection Law that came into effect in June allows people to report incidents where care givers, relatives, neighbours or medical staff put a child's life at risk.

The law demands that people sitting in the front of a car must be strapped in.

Children under 10 are ban-ned from sitting in the front, and parents who let them face a Dh400 fine and four black points on their licence.

A child held by a parent may be crushed or put through the windscreen in an accident, safety experts said.

"It's about getting used to the law and changing behaviour of parents and individuals," Mr Al Kamda said. "The onus is on all of us to protect children."

But he warned people not to endanger their own safety by taking photos while driving.

The plan has met with approval from parents.

"I once saw someone driving with a baby on her lap while she was feeding it, and she was on the phone," said Lisa Barfoot-Smith, founder of the Louis Smith Foundation, which supports teenagers struggling with depression.

"It would be great if I could report that to someone and something actually happens.

"I hope this will make people pay more attention to children's safety because I have seen so many frightening instances.

Lawyers said knowledge of traffic laws should be spread among communities.

"In some countries it's not a crime so it has to be done while taking into consideration people from different backgrounds," said Hassan Elhais, legal consultant at Al Rowaad Advocates. "Legal knowledge for everybody is most important."

But Salha Khalifa, an Emirati lawyer who works with women and children, was not convinced that taking photographs would be effective.

"Many of our cars have black windows so how can photos be taken?" Ms Khalifa asked.

She said that she was not comfortable with people taking photographs.

"Suppose a mother wants to feed her child and takes out the seat belt? There are many ways to protect children, but with photographs? I'm not so sure."

Lesley Cully, founder of the Buckle Up campaign that urges safety restraints for children, also warned against taking photographs when driving.

"I appreciate the reasoning behind it but it's a bit complicated," Ms Cully said. "This creates a whole new danger of using your phone in the car.

"I would still say putting on a seat belt will prevent a lifetime of regret and tragedy. Just buckle up in the front and the back, protect yourselves and love your children."

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