Greater awareness needed of risks for children around cars

13 May 2011 | Child & Youth Mortality Review Committee

Committee Chair Dr Nick Baker says about five children die because of low speed run over in New Zealand each year – and most of these deaths happen on the driveways of their own home.

“It’s so easy to forget just how lethal a car can be, even a slow-moving one,” he says.  “It’s especially tragic when an infant or child is run over because they are usually known to the person driving the vehicle.”

And for every child killed by a slow-moving vehicle, another 12 children are hospitalised.  Approximately 11 percent of those who survive have injuries so severe they are left with a permanent disability.

The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, which operates under the auspices of the Health Quality & Safety Commission, is preparing a report on low-speed vehicle deaths, and another report later this year on child deaths related to all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and farm machines.

Dr Baker is speaking about low-speed vehicle deaths at the Kids Trauma Conference 2011 (Fifth New Zealand Paediatric Trauma Conference) at Auckland City Hospital today.

He says most deaths happen in driveways and involve children under six years old.  The driver is usually known to the child and in most instances is reversing at the time of the accident.

Dr Baker and Safekids New Zealand suggests three things you can do to make driveways and other places safer for children: check, supervise and separate.

Check:

  • Always count the kids before you manoeuvre, and make sure they are belted safely in the car or in a safe place away from the car.
  • Understand how big the blind zones are around your car.
  • Keep cars locked and do not let children use them as play areas.

 Supervise

  • Ensure a responsible person (not a group of kids) is actively supervising children if they can get to spaces used by cars.
  • Late afternoon and early evening are particularly busy times for parents and caregivers and special efforts are needed to make sure children are safe.

 Separate:

  • Consider how to separate children from all areas used for driving, for example, installing a childproof doorway gate, half-door or using fences to keep young children safe.
  • Infants and children should have safe fenced play spaces to let them explore and develop in safety.
  • If you’re visiting someone’s house, consider parking on the road instead of the driveway, and if you’re expecting visitors you could place objects on the driveway to deter cars parking there.

“We need a real wake-up call for all vehicle users so they understand just how quickly a small child can move from a safe place to suffer death or major injury. The driver has no idea they are under the wheels until it is too late,” Dr Baker says.

The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee is working with Safekids in delivering a national campaign this year to promote the community ownership of low speed run over injury prevention in home driveways.

“There is no appointed government agency tasked to prevent driveway run over injuries. The Safekids campaign encourages communities to take up this challenge and make a difference in their own areas,” Dr Baker added.

To find out more about the Safekids Campaign, visit www.safekids.org.nz.

The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee aims to learn from tragedy and to identify, address and potentially decrease the numbers of infant, child and youth deaths. Changes in the way things are done and systems – often across the whole community – are critically important. To find out more about visit: http://www.cymrc.health.govt.nz/.

Last updated 19/01/2012