Every year almost 100 children die and more than 8000 are admitted to hospital as a result of motor vehicle related injuries in Australia.
While many of those are a consequence of horrible on-road accidents, some 10 per cent of those deaths happen on driveways of homes with children sadly run over by the family car with a parent or another relative at the wheel.
Just as tragic is the statistic that an average of 12 children each year lose their lives after being left unattended in a car, the soaring temperatures bringing dehydration and then death.
It is impossible for your breath not to catch when you read or hear about these heartbreaking incidents of little people lost too soon. The impact, on parents and families resonates forever.
It is no secret that kids can be unpredictable, darting out from where you least expect, changing behaviour on a whim, stubbornly refusing to hold your hand while crossing the road which means keeping them safe in and around motor vehicles can be an arduous task.
While it helps for adults to be extra vigilant, it is important too, to have firm rules in place to help with the process.
Wait for the green man
Road safety is a good place to start. Set an example by crossing at designated areas like traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. Yes, sometimes its feels like a schlep to walk the 10 metres to the right to press the button, but it will be worthwhile in the long run.
No matter how much they protest hold on to those little hands while crossing.
Talk to children about looking both ways and walking quickly and decisively when it is clear to do so. Remind them to make sure the approaching car is actually slowing down at a crossing before walking, as let's face it, not all drivers can be trusted.
No matter how much they protest hold on to those little hands while crossing. Research shows that until the age of 10, children cannot reliably judge distance and depth so they actually do need help across a busy road.
Safe entry... and exit
My girls know to only get in and out of the car on the side closest to the kerb. It is a rule we have had since they were toddlers and one that serves us well now that they are at school.
Yes, sometimes it requires a bit of scrambling but it means that they are never opening the door to traffic.
Kids under five are generally at risk here with most injuries involving those around the two-year old mark as they are usually less visible from the driver's seat.
Many vehicles these days boast modern technologies such as reverse cameras and sensors, and these are a sensible, must-have safety feature (where available). They are not fail-proof however, and best used in conjunction with adult supervision.
- Watch small children closely while a car is entering or leaving a driveway, hold their hands or keep them close.
- If you are the only adult around, and the driver, make sure the kids are in the car with you.
- Don't allow small children to play in the driveway, keeping it out of bounds where possible.
- Say goodbyes in the house not the driveway.
- If you have internal access from your garage into the house, make sure that door is childproof.
- Shout out to ensure the kids are in the house before you get into the car.
- Always look at the back and around the car before getting in.
Carparks, especially shopping centre carparks, tend to freak me out even more than busy roads. In fact, I get my girls to treat them as if they are dangerous roads and make them stick to the edges and hold my hand while we are negotiating one.
On a typical summer's day the temperature inside a parked car can be 30–40 degrees hotter than outside the car.
The thing is you can never account for those crazies that treat carparks like racing tracks or those drivers that reverse out of a park without bothering to look.
Designate a safe spot on the car where kids can wait as they alight and make sure they are buckled in before you start loading the groceries.
Keep the kids with you
Who amongst us hasn't been tempted to leave the kids in the car while you quickly nip in to get the bread or pay for the petrol?
While it seems harmless enough, it is not only illegal but can actually have dire consequences.
On a typical summer's day the temperature inside a parked car can be 30–40 degrees hotter than outside the car. Incredibly, 75 per cent of that temperature increase happens within five minutes of shutting the car. And that window that you leave open a crack is not going to help.
Every year more than 5000 Australian children are rescued from hot cars with efforts coming too late for some. Try to do your shopping or petrol filling while the kids are at school or in the care of another adult or if that is not possible, just take them in with you.