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Survey Shows Motorist Endangering Children's Lives

Upper Hutt drivers who take to the road without buckling in their junior passengers are putting their children at risk, says Joanne Kinnaird, Upper Hutt City Council’s Road Safety Co-ordinator.

A recent survey taken in the city showed that in just a one and a half hour period 66 children were seen in vehicles not buckled in to appropriate car seats and some not even in a seatbelt.

Another survey done later the same week showed that 69 children were not buckled in correctly.

"People are gambling with their children's lives. I cannot put it more strongly than that," Joanne says.

The results of the survey, which was undertaken at the exits of a large carpark in the city, make frightening and sober reading.

"There was one car that had a toddler in the front seat nursing a baby. If that car had to stop suddenly or be involved in a crash, there is no way an adult let alone a toddler could keep hold of that baby. The baby would have turned into a missile and would have go out through the front windscreen like a bullet.

"What will it take before people get the message about buckling their children?" Joanne asks.

She says other vehicles witnessed by those doing the survey were a van that had a number of children in it who were bouncing around inside but the parents were wearing their seatbelts. In another car the baby was in a capsule, but the mother was unbuckled.

To tackle this problem the LTSA has funded a Child Restraint Project that aims to encourage parents and caregivers to buckle in their children into appropriate carseats.

There are four essential parts to the project which runs through until Christmas - the survey which is done pre and post campaign, the campaign which consists of a series of advertisements in the Upper Hutt Leader; Police enforcement - where random checks of childcare centres and kindergartens are undertaken; and an information campaign - which has seen brochures and posters listing local suppliers of car seats, local car seat rental schemes and the correct way to fit them - distributed around the community.

Part of the information campaign has seen a number of local businesses support the child restraint project.

Upper Hutt company EDS have distributed around 1500 of the car seat brochures as part of the company's Global Volunteer Day.

"Around the world staff of EDS dedicate some time to their community. We were fortunate that a team from EDS in Lane St decided to get behind this very worthwhile project and support it by taking to the streets last week distributing the flyers to organisations as well as talk to people about buckling up their children.

Another business, McDonald's Upper Hutt, is also behind the project and has given an undertaking to distribute 5000 flyers throughout their two outlets.

The flyers will be handed out to drive thru customers as well as those ordering Happy Meals until Christmas.

Owners Bronwyn and Murray Lord say their commitment to the project is part of the company's overall road safety strategy. "But closer to home, we support the campaign as a way of keeping Upper Hutt children safe. We need to see children strapped into their car seats when they are coming through our drive thru's. Drivers need to be responsible and ensure that their child passengers are safely contained in an appropriate car seat," Bronwyn says.

According to the law, drivers will be fined $150 for not ensuring their child passengers are strapped in.

All children under the age of five must be restrained in an approved child restraint when travelling in cars and vans.

"Wearing an adults seatbelt is not good enough and it can be dangerous to your child, because if an accident occurs the belt can slip either up or down and can cause an injury," Joanne says.

"Each driver has a responsibility to ensure that any child travelling in their car must be restrained in either a baby capsule, child car seat - the one with an harness you have to clip together - or a booster seat. It must also be suitable for the child's weight and age and be fitted correctly to both the car and the kid," Joanne says.

"There are no excuses. What with Plunket's car rental scheme, local retailers stocking car seats and WINZ (Work and Income New Zealand) who can help with the money side of things - there are no reasons why Upper Hutt children can't be put into car seats other than drivers being lazy and dicing with their children's welfare."

Joanne says the aim of the project is to educate the community so when the post survey of the same car park are performed in December it is hoped that non-compliance numbers are dramatically reduced.


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