Help save children’s lives on the driveway with RoSPA’s checklist

Parking the car on the driveway is simple, right? You stop the car, put the handbrake on and go about your daily business. But what if you are attempting to park on an incline? Is there something that you might have missed?

driveway safety

RoSPA began looking into the safety of children in and around cars after it was approached by the family of Iain Goodwill who was killed when he was struck by a car on the driveway of his home near Inverness.

These few questions could help save a life. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is aware of 14 children who have been killed by a vehicle at home since 2006. There are also many more near misses and cases in which a child is injured, sometimes seriously. Some accidents have involved a driver pulling on to or off a driveway without seeing the child, and others happened when a child was able to move a car that had been parked in a driveway. Recently in the press, there have been reported cases of children being crushed by cars that rolled down on steep driveways. In these cases the brakes have been said to have failed as they cooled down causing the car to silently roll backwards, hitting a child in the process. Rule 252 of The Highway Code advises drivers to select a forward gear and turn the steering wheel away from the kerb when facing uphill. If facing downhill, drivers should select a reverse gear and turn their steering wheel towards the kerb. Alternatively, use “park” if the car has an automatic gearbox.

RoSPA began looking into the safety of children in and around cars after we were approached by the family of Iain Goodwill who was killed when he was struck by a car on the driveway of his home near Inverness. The family of the 17-month-old, who died in 2007, set up the Iain Goodwill Trust to hopefully prevent others enduring similar tragedies.

The majority of parents are unaware of the potential for an accident involving their children and a car at home, as we discovered when we conducted driveway safety research in 2010. The survey, run in conjunction with the Iain Goodwill Trust (www.iains-trust.org), focused on children being struck by cars on driveways. One of the main issues identified through the research was that parents and carers did not think an accident would happen to their family, unless they knew someone who had already experienced one, meaning they did not take simple precautions.

Of those who took part in the survey:

  • 59 per cent could recall a time when their child had followed them out of the house on to the driveway without them realising
  • 22 per cent had started to manoeuvre a vehicle on the driveway and realised their child was close to the car when they thought they were elsewhere
  • 95 per cent reported temporarily leaving their children unattended in the car on the driveway while they “dashed back into the house” for something
  • 42 per cent said their children had picked up the family car keys without being seen to do so.

However, 68 per cent believed it was unlikely that their child would ever be injured by a vehicle entering or leaving their driveway. And 83 per cent believed it was unlikely their child would ever be injured by a vehicle parked on their driveway.

So how can you protect your children on your driveway? Between the ages of one and two, children become more and more mobile, meaning they can easily escape a parent’s supervision. It is not until the age of four or five that children begin to understand the concept of danger, and begin to heed warnings given to them. By raising awareness, we can help to highlight the dangers and the risks we take and look at the safety measures that can be put in place to make sure that children are not killed or injured around cars.

We advise:

  • Turning your steering wheel when you are parked in order to activate the steering lock – 22 per cent of respondents always activate the steering lock, but 36 per cent never do so
  • Reversing on to your driveway (if you have one) so that you drive forwards when pulling away – 26 per cent of respondents never reverse on to their driveway when returning home
  • Parking in gear if your driveway is not flat (first gear if facing uphill; reverse gear if facing downhill)
  • Locking your car doors before going into the house – a small minority of respondents reported never locking their vehicle doors when parked outside the home
  • Keeping your car keys out of reach of children – the majority of respondents reported keeping keys on a high-level shelf or other high place; however many said that they were aware they kept their keys in a place a child could easily access.

Adopting some of these safety tips sooner rather than later could make all the difference. Losing a life just yards from your front door is a very high price to pay for not being fully aware of the dangers – and this is where RoSPA can help.

For more advice on keeping children safe in and around cars visit http://www.rospa.com/RoadSafety/advice/incarsafety/info/children_in_cars.pdf

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety

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