kids

How you can prevent your child from being killed or injured in a driveway.

A child is run over in a driveway in Australia every week.

It’s a shocking statistic, but to most of us, it’s just that – a statistic. When we learn about a tragedy that has struck another family, we sympathise, but we can never really understand the extreme despair, pain and guilt they are experiencing. And perhaps that’s why, despite hearing about cases regularly, these accidents keep happening.

This week it’s a family in Ipswich who are reeling from the death of their 18-month-old boy who was struck by a car in a driveway on Monday. Last year it was little Savannah’s family who mourned her death after her father ran her over in their Perth driveway. And on New Year’s Eve, two-year-old Kingston Fugawai was killed when a car struck him as it drove into his Sydney home.

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Kingston was celebrating his second birthday when he was killed. (Image via Facebook.)

These are just some of the cases - estimated at eight per year - when a child under five is killed after being run over at a low speed, child safety expert Holly Fitzgerald says.

Fitzgerald, the chief executive of Kidsafe SA, tells Mamamia parents need to be vigilant about driveway safety and should undertake a number of measures to prevent similar accidents in their own home, rather than relying on just one.

She says it's best to think of the driveway as a small road and treat it as such.

"You wouldn't have children playing on the road, don't let them play in the driveway. Because it can be a high-risk environment."

Listen: A photo of a baby on a tractor posted by footballer Tom Hawkins' wife this week got us debating whether it's unsafe.

Fitzgerald recommends parents start teaching their children from an early age about safety and staying off the driveway. However, at the age when they are most at risk - two to three years of age - they will be too young to fully understand the risks, and that's where parents taking preventative measures comes in.

It's important to remember that drivers are combatting poor visibility in cars, according to Fitzgerald, and that's how accidents occur.

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"All vehicles have a really large blind space behind them, some up to 15 metres long behind. Particularly at the height of a young child - about a metre high, visibility is really poor. So you really can't see what's happening directly behind your car," Fitzgerald tells Mamamia.

And while a car's rear sensing technology has developed over the years,  Fitzgerald warns against relying on one mechanism for preventing accidents.

Instead, parents should take a holistic approach to child road safety.

Supervise, Separate and See.

Fitzgerald recommends, wherever possible, parents put barriers in place so their children cannot access the driveway or the garage.

"Young children might have access from the home, out the garage door and out the roller door."

"Just thinking about your home environment and how you can reduce the chances of a young child getting up and wandering into the garage or out the front of the house and onto the driveway."

And if you are with a child and cars are being moved, make sure you hold their hand.

Make sure you know exactly where your child is before you drive off. (Image via iStock.)

"If children are out the front, it's about parents and carers physically holding them, like you would around a major road.

"Children don't have a concept of danger and they can be unpredictable. They can run behind a moving vehicle in an instant."

It's also important for the driver to know at all times where their child is before they take off. Fitzgerald says if your children aren't in the car with you and you don't know for an absolute fact they are inside with another parent or elsewhere, then don't start driving until you do.

Put simply: if you don't know, don't go.

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