Driveway safety gains momentum

More than 350 Bay of Plenty households with children aged five or under now have improved driveway safety as Housing New Zealand looks to put the brakes on being over-represented in driveway runover incidents.

The safety improvements to 356 households can potentially save lives and give tenants peace of mind, says Housing New Zealand acting regional portfolio manager Tanya Stewart.

Housing New Zealand is bolstering its efforts to reduce children being injured in driveway incidents. Photo: Bruce Barnard

Housing New Zealand’s driveway safety programme aims to reduce the risk of children being run over in the driveways of state homes, by creating secure play areas for children.

New Zealand has one of the highest recorded incidences of child driveway death and injury in the world. According to Safekids Aotearoa – the injury prevention service of Auckland’s Starship Hospital – a child is hospitalised every two weeks after being run over in a private driveway and five children die on average each year from these injuries.

Most children injured in driveway incidents are toddlers, aged about two, and their injuries are often severe. Most of these injuries come from children being run over by relatives while Housing New Zealand properties are over-represented in driveway runover incidents.

“Our priority is to make safety improvements at Housing New Zealand properties where there are children aged five and under living at them, as most children injured in driveway accidents are toddlers,” says Tanya.

“I’m thrilled we are doing this work in the Bay of Plenty. This kind of work really does have the potential to save children’s lives. It’s a wonderful concept which will give the tenants of these homes peace of mind.’’

The safety improvements made to Housing New Zealand homes through the programme typically include installing fencing and self-closing gates with child-resistant latches. Improvements to housing complexes can also include speed restriction signs, speed humps and convex mirrors, where appropriate.

“The work we carry out depends on the type of property – but the key priority is creating secure play areas for children that are separate from the driveway.

Nationwide the organisation has completed improvements to more than 7000 properties since July 2013. Its aim is to complete 13,000 properties over a four-year period – close to a $30 million investment.

Safekids Aotearoa director Ann Weaver reminds parents and drivers of their important role in preventing driveway run-overs.

“Always check for children before driving off, supervise children around vehicles, and have a separate play area from driveways,” says Ann.

Safekids Aotearoa and the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee identify three main reasons why children are run over in driveways; human behaviour – most adults in New Zealand are unaware of the risks; vehicle design – particularly lack of visibility from within vehicles, when entering and leaving driveways; and property design – particularly where driveways are not separated from play areas, extra-long or shared driveways, driveways with multiple parking spaces, driveways that exit into quiet streets or common areas shared with vehicles where children might play.

Tanya says Housing New Zealand provides driveway safety advice to people when they move into a state rental home and it also regularly includes driveway safety information in its tenant newsletters.

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