September is an exciting time for Kiwi families. Spring is in the air and Father’s Day was also celebrated this month. However, September brings with it a number of injury risks – one of the most serious is Driveway Run Over injuries.
“Every two weeks a child is hospitalised with serious injuries received from a vehicle driving on a private driveway in New Zealand. A further five children are killed annually, on average. Children at risk are aged between 1 and 3 years old,” said Ann Weaver, Director of Safekids Aotearoa.
“Most child driveway run overs happen in spring and summer, and sadly fathers are most often at the wheel,” Ms Weaver added.
Child Driveway Run Overs are however preventable. This spring and in celebration of Father’s Day, Safekids Aotearoa and Housing New Zealand asks parents to be aware of the risks by identifying the signs of a risky driveway, and what home improvements you can make to prevent run overs from happening.
driveway danger signs
- A long driveway.
- A driveway in a quiet road or cul-de-sac.
- A driveway that also provides pedestrian access to house (with no separate pedestrian pathway).
- A driveway leading to lots of parking – where cars need to be moved around to make room or allow vehicles to leave.
- No physical barrier (i.e. fence) between driveway and outdoor play area.
what you can do:
CHECK, SUPERVISE and SEPARATE
- Look out for small children and pets before moving the car. Walk around the car and look underneath.
- All vehicles have tear-drop shaped blind zones — at the front, side and longer at the rear.
- Driveway run overs can happen driving forward and reversing.
- Don’t let children use driveways as play areas.
- Ensure a responsible adult, not a group of kids, is actively supervising babies and toddlers.
- Late afternoon and early evening are particularly risky times. Special efforts are needed then to make sure children are safe.
- If you have babies or toddlers, consider installing a childproof gate at exits that lead to driveways.
- Children should have a safe, fenced play area.
Safekids Aotearoa is the injury prevention service of Starship Children’s Health and a member of Safe Kids Worldwide. Our mission is to reduce the incidence and severity of unintentional injuries to New Zealand’s children aged 0–14 years. For more information, contact Anthony Rola at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.safekids.org.nz or call 09 631 0717.
the law is changing
One of the best ways of keeping our kids safer and more protected in the event of a car crash is to keep them in a child restraint for longer. NZ is catching up with the rest of the world with a new law that will require children to be in an approved child restraint until at least 7-years-old.
You have until November 1st to plan ahead and work out the best carseat and booster seat options for your family. From that date, all children will be legally required to be correctly secured in an approved restraint (this includes booster seats) until their 7th birthday. This means that now 5- and 6-year-olds will have to be more safely restrained, and that can only be a good thing for your child in the event of a crash.
1 Child restraints used in New Zealand must be ‘approved’ and must display standards markings to show they are approved and safe to be used. Children must be seated in a restraint that provides a suitable fit (is appropriate) for their age and size.
2 The law will continue to require all children aged 7 to be secured in an approved child restraint, if one is in the vehicle. So that means that if a suitable child restraint is available in your car, it is proposed that a child should use it at least until their 8th birthday. If an approved one is not available, then your child (over 7) needs to use a safety belt instead.
3 These changes will help reduce preventable deaths and serious injuries to children travelling in vehicles. Note that it’s the driver’s responsibility for ensuring that any child under the age of 15 years travelling in their vehicle is correctly restrained.
what are child restraints?
Approved child restraints include:
1 Infant restraints for young babies (often called baby capsules).
2 Restraints for older babies, toddlers and preschool children (often called car seats).
3 Booster seats for preschool and school-aged children.
4 Child safety harnesses (used with or without a booster seat) for preschool and school-aged children.
5 Your child restraint must be fitted correctly. For expert advice, contact a certified Child Restraint Technician via www.nzta.govt.nz/childrestraints.
why is a seatbelt unsuitable for a child?
When children’s calves and thighs are too short for the depth of the adult car seat, they intuitively slide their hips forward for greater comfort. This causes the lap portion of seatbelt to ride up over the soft tissues of their abdomen, rather than being positioned over the rigid pelvic bones, as they are designed to do for adults. This can cause serious abdominal injuries in a crash.
The shoulder portion of the seatbelt can also cut across a child’s neck and face and can cause severe upper neck and spinal trauma. Often, for added comfort, a child places the shoulder portion of the seatbelt under their arm or behind their back, rather than off their shoulder as it is intended to be worn. This means that the seatbelt is not properly doing the job it is designed to do, which is to restrain your child’s body in a crash.
Because adult seatbelts do not fit children well and are uncomfortable, some children prefer riding unsecured. In the event of a crash, unsecured children can be ejected through a vehicle window. Those situations are usually fatal. And the risk of ejection from a vehicle does not only apply to unrestrained children. In a crash, a child who is restrained only by a seatbelt can also slide out from under the seatbelt (referred to as ‘submarining’) and be ejected from the vehicle.
Using a booster seat lifts a child to the correct height/dimensions to best fit the adult seat belt, which in turn reduces the potential trauma suffered by a child in the event of a crash.
how do i choose the right booster seat?
Approved booster seats vary in price and quality. Booster cushions are available from $30. For a child restraint to provide optimum protection, it needs to provide both back and side support to protect from side-impact injuries. A booster seat that provides both back and side support can be bought for between $80 and $150. More expensive booster seats are available which offer more features and protection and can be used for a longer period such as from 1- to 12-years.
when should my child stop using a booster seat?
There is evidence that all children who are shorter than 148cm in height are significantly safer in a booster seat than when using an adult seat alone. Taking into account car manufacturer recommendations, many other countries now also require children to be at a standing height of 148cm before they are allowed to ride in an adult seat using just a seatbelt. So although it’s not legally required in NZ after age 7, it’s considerably safer for your child if they continue to use a booster seat until they reach this recommended height.
will families be able to get assistance with buying child restraints?
The Ministry of Social Development provides recoverable financial assistance for approved child restraints under two schemes: Advanced Payment of Benefits, for beneficiaries and Recoverable Assistance Payments, for non-beneficiaries.