Prevalence and issues in non-use of safety belts and child restraints in a high-income developing country: Lessons for the future

Peter Barss, Murad Al-Obthani, Abdulla Al-Hammadi, Hamad Al-Shamsi, Mohammed El-Sadig, Michal Grivna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. In United Arab Emirates (UAE), a high-income developing country, safety belt (SB) legislation was implemented in 1998, covering only front-seated adults on highways outside cities. We assessed wearing of SBs after 5 years, together with use of safety restraints by rear passengers and children, perceptions about SBs, and use of tinted glass. Methods. A cross-sectional survey in 2003-2004 in Al Ain, population 400,000 and the main desert city of UAE, used random sampling of petrol stations; about 80% of UAE's population is non-citizens. Five of 30 stations were selected, including 3 different speed zones; vehicles with children were over-sampled. Drivers were interviewed by questionnaire. Use of safety restraints and presence of tinted glass were verified by observation. Confounding and correlation were assessed by stratification and logistic regression. Results. The sample included 500 vehicles, containing 959 adults and 876 children; 382 vehicles had children. SBs were used by 29% of drivers, 14% of front-seat and 2% of rear-seat adult passengers. 23% of children were in front; only 4% in front and 1% in the rear were restrained. SBs were worn by only 11% of UAE-citizen drivers and 10% of off-duty police and military. Odds ratio for non-use by citizens was 3.55 (95% CI 1.96-6.42). Use was greater among older drivers (p < 0.0005, X2 trend). Reasons for non-use of SBs included discomfort 42%, forgetfulness 25%, uselessness 17%, carelessness 13%, and dangerous 3%. Among citizens, 15% believed SBs are dangerous. Tinted glass was present in 68% of vehicles. Conclusions. SB legislation failed to protect the population, with low use of restraints by citizens, military, and police, and virtually none among children and rear passengers. Lessons include the necessity of drafting laws that provide comprehensive and effective protection, study of cultural constraints to compliance with injury prevention measures, and locally effective interventions to prepare citizens and enforcers for the expected new behaviour. Highly tinted glass is widespread and poses a barrier to enforcement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-263
Number of pages8
JournalTraffic Injury Prevention
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


  • Child Restraints
  • Injury Prevention
  • Legislation
  • Safety Restraints
  • Seatbelts
  • Traffic Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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