Sunday, April 16, 2006

Safety Seats a Must

One day, a Japanese friend of mine, his two-year-old son and I were about to go to the amusement park in their car. The little boy was not in his safety seat; he was just standing in the front passenger seat. To my great surprise, the father did not feel it was necessary to restraint his toddler in the safety seat before moving off.

-"Hey! Why don't you put your son in the safety seat first?" I asked.
-"It's too much work to buckle him in the seat," he replied. "Besides, he cries a lot when I try to fasten the seat belt. I guess he doesn't like the seat."
-"Aren't you concerned about your child safety?" I uttered. "Even at low speed, a minor impact is enough to send your lovely son banging into the windshield if he is not in the safety seat."

He did not seem to agree with me. However, I insisted on putting the little boy into the safety seat saying, "You should use the seat because it's the regulation now." He finally stopped the car and put his son in the seat. The child did not want to stay in the seat and cried a lot, but I tried to calm him down while his father fastened the seat belt.

I am certain no one likes to hear awful stories about car accidents, especially ones that involve children. But the chilling truth is that many infants are killed every year in Japan because their parents do not feel it is necessary to restraint them in a safety seat.

Ever since I came to Japan I have been puzzled by the total lack of child restraint in family cars. I see countless cars with young children (sometimes two or more) standing up in the front passenger seat, grandmothers holding toddlers in their arms, mothers driving with babies strapped to their chest; but what I rarely see is a vehicle that has been fitted with a safety seat.

It defies logic. If parents didn't feed their children or give them water to drink, they would be tried for neglect, maybe even murder. Shouldn't parents have the same obligation to keep their children safe in a car?

To see beautiful little faces pushed up against the front and back windows of such well-kept speeding cars is "criminal." But, the Japanese police seem to be either unwilling or unable to do anything about it. If some kind of on-the-spot fine was introduced for offending drivers, I am sure this kind of irresponsible behavior would soon decrease or even disappear.

Maybe I am preaching to the converted here. I certainly hope that every parent reading this article already uses safety seats for his or her children. If not I would like to call general public attention to the dangerous lack of awareness. There are plenty of conventional car seats available on the market, they are not too expensive and relatively easy to install. If you really do love your children, buckle them up in car seats for their safety.

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