Compared to other cities, Cairo is not much of a mother-friendly or child-friendly city. The lack of parks and open spaces for children to run around in; the lack of baby changing facilities and ramps for strollers in restaurants and other public places; the pollution and relentless urban sprawl coupled with garbage strewn on the streets are just not the makings of a secure, healthy environment for children to grow up in. Not to mention that driving here can be an unpleasant experience, especially when you’re stuck in traffic with a toddler in the backseat wanting to breastfeed. But there is one factor that I’m sure every mother, Egyptian or foreign, has had personal experience with in one way or another: road safety. Cairo’s notorious highways have been referred to as “death roads”: the speeding, the lack of driving etiquette, the tailgating, (did I mention the speeding?) have resulted in innumerable road accidents with tragic consequences.
We all want to protect our children as much as we can. But there are elements that are out of our control, such as the driving culture of an entire country. However, some things we can control. There are minor steps we can take to make the roads safer for our children, especially babies and toddlers. Many mothers here (mostly foreigners who haven’t braved Cairo’s highways yet on their own), depend on public transportation (namely UBER and Careem) to move around. And while they are fully equipped and armed with their children’s car seats and every imaginable child safety item, sometimes even the best laid plans can run aground when the facilities themselves are ill-equipped. Many times, when ordering Careem or UBER, I, along with may other mothers, I’m certain, have been frustrated by the complete absence of seat belts in the back seat or seat belts that are not long enough to wrap around the child’s car seat. Sometimes, it doesn’t fasten properly to the buckle. There a myraid of problems with the cars provided by UBER and Careem here in Egypt. But given drivers’ penchant for speeding, it is unacceptable that the car is not properly equipped with something as simple and essential as a seat belt in the back seat. We shouldn’t have to endure car rides on dangerous roads with nothing more than our arms around our children for protection.
Complaints have been sent to the 2 companies but they have mostly fallen on deaf ears. However, some of the ways that mothers have worked around this is either starting to drive on their own, requiring a car with good seat belts or taking the number of a driver with a well-equipped car and hiring him for future trips, or switching to the seat behind the driver seat (ideally, a child’s car seat should be placed behind the passenger seat). But still a concerted effort has to be made by those car companies to provide a safer passenger experience for our children by requiring all cars to be adequately equipped with seat belts in the back seat.
In any case, mothers have to do what’s right for their children. If you feel that a car is unsafe for your child, don’t get in it. Also, never ever carry the child in your lap. It is safer, after all, to place the child in its car seat, even if there is no belt to wrap around and secure the car seat itself than have the child unsecured altogether in your arms.
Photo courtesy of www.coolmomtech.com