Road traffic crashes are a routine occurrence throughout the world with thousands of people losing their lives on the roads every day; children and young adults are among the most vulnerable to injury. Approximately 1 in 11 trauma patients seen at the Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Hamad Trauma Center was a child victim with a road traffic injury (RTI). Only 1 out of 7 children who died in Qatar from an RTI was treated at a hospital, the majority sustained injuries so severe that they died at the scene.
As part of efforts to reverse this trend and instill good traffic safety habits in school children, the Hamad Injury Prevention Program (HIPP) – the community outreach arm of the Hamad Trauma Center – has introduced traffic safety awareness activities at schools in Qatar.
“As we are all aware, prevention is always better than a fatality or serious injury. We at the Hamad Trauma Center, through the HIPP, want to see a drastic and sustained reduction in the number of road traffic-related deaths and injuries, especially among children in Qatar. Therefore, our aim is to emphasize the importance of safe road practices among the public and we are doing this by focusing on schoolchildren who we see as great advocates for road safety among their family members and the community,” says Dr. Hassan Al Thani, Head of Trauma Services at HMC.
Dr. Al Thani, who is also Head of the Vascular Surgery Section, highlights that while it is important to have a world-class infrastructure to deliver high-quality trauma care, it is equally vital to emphasize prevention by convincing people to commit to safety measures.
“Prevention is one of the key elements for decreasing road traffic-related deaths and injuries which are a leading cause of death in Qatar. To get this message across effectively, we are starting off in schools, which are the cornerstone for building the community. By investing in children now, we will reap the benefits later because they will grow into adults who will carry the traffic safety message forward into the future,” notes Dr. Al Thani.
Describing the initiative, Dr. Aisha Fathi Abeid, Injury Prevention Assistant Director of HIPP, says: “Under the school-based initiative, which started in 2014, hundreds of school students have received practical information about being safer on the road, either as pedestrians, school bus passengers, or vehicle occupants. Getting young children out of front seats or parents’ laps and into proper restraints is the first step. Adult supervision for children younger than 10 years of age while walking [on are near roads] is the second main message.”
She explains that students, alongside their school’s traffic safety coordinators, attend interactive sessions with programs tailored to their age. “We have created culturally appropriate materials to teach the students and we also encourage learning through role play and by sharing our personal stories as well as stories of patients,” says Dr. Abeid.
Dr. Rafael Consunji, Director of HIPP says: “Under this program, we visit schools to inform and convince students of proven safe road behaviors, asking them to advocate the same to their parents, siblings, and peers. Restraints [car seats or seatbelts] are designed to prevent passengers from ejection from the vehicle or hitting other passengers or the vehicle’s internal frame. The Hamad Trauma Center research team has found that, in Qatar, not using a restraint increases the chance of dying or serious traumatic brain injury by 400 percent [or by four times]. Unfortunately, less than 2 percent of children with serious RTIs in Qatar was using a proper restraint; if every child were properly restrained on every journey, then we could save the lives of 40 children and prevent more than a hundred serious RTIs in children every year. This can only happen if families and communities are educated; if authorities enact new laws requiring all passengers to use restraints and the authorities enforce them consistently.”