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High rate of driveway deaths avoidable

High rate of driveway deaths avoidable

Children being run over in driveways brings tragedy to New Zealand families at a higher rate than any other western nation.

This is one of the findings of a study by University of Waikato public policy honours student Brendan The research project, funded by the Child Injury Prevention Foundation of New Zealand, was supervised by the University’s Senior Lecturer in Policy Dr Maxine Campbell.

The research evaluates town planning policies affecting the renovation and/or erection of domestic residences with a view to determining whether they are consistent with existing knowledge and best practice initiatives designed to minimise accidental injuries to children on driveways, or whether other factors take precedence over child safety considerations.

“I’ve been very surprised at how little legislation there is around driveway safety,” says Brendan.

“The priorities of the Resource Management Act are on environmental sustainability and in recognising heritage and cultural areas. The District Plan is designed to comply with the RMA, but neither really prioritise child safety.”

He says houses need to be built with garages at the front of the property, and that long driveways should be avoided.

“We may need to rethink how we live. With more townhouses being built with less outdoor recreational space, where do children end up playing? On driveways. This is something we’ve identified as being a real problem.

"We believe that harm-prevention strategies should focus on making existing areas safer given the realities of intensification and that city councils inherit (problematic) built environment legacies, such as the quarter-acre paradise."

The project reviewed existing child safety literature in regard to driveway run overs, along with local and central government policies and publications.

The research found that children under five are over-represented in fatalities and injuries on driveways relative to comparable nations such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. On average there are two incidents per month in New Zealand.

The literature indicates that the built environment has a significant impact on child safety. Reducing the length of driveways, preventing the driveway from being on the property boundary, introducing some form of separation between the driveway and dwelling/outdoor areas, having dedicated play areas for children, and decreasing the number of driveways that are shared between different properties will decrease the incidence of child driveway runovers.

Dr Campbell says there is plenty of child safety best practice advice put forward in academic “The message is very consistent and there is a clear message about what is wrong. It shows there is plenty of room for improvement.”

Among its recommendations, the study endorses the continuation and extension of the practice of reduced speed limits and traffic calming measures in residential streets, and the inclusion of child safety as a high level objective in policy design.

Ends

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