Small kids, safe seats

School trips a logistical nightmare

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 11:23 03/07/2013
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Patient traveller : Get me out of here when I turn 7

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Changes to the law making children use carseats for longer could have negative effects on school trips for junior classes, principals have warned.

The Government has made it compulsory from November 1 for all children up to 7 years old to use an approved child restraint when travelling in motor vehicles. The change increases the age from 5 to 7, and also makes it compulsory for children aged between 7 and 8 to use a restraint if one is available in the vehicle.

However, Marlborough Principals' Association president Andrew McFarlane said it would limit a school's ability to do out-of-school educational trips for their junior classes.

Mr McFarlane, the principal at Spring Creek School, said the school might look at bus transport rather than parents' cars in future, but that would have a cost that would fall on the school community.

It would make trips into the Blenheim town library more of a logistics exercise than it already was.

More cars would be needed as few could get three carseats across them, and some carseats were difficult to fit.

He did agree some children were smaller and needed to be in carseats longer, and there was a safety argument.

"We were talking about this at morning tea, and we all know a 10 year-old who could benefit from a booster seat."

But the measure had not been discussed enough, he said.

Parents who wanted their children in carseats for school trips were accommodated now.

His points were echoed by Rapaura School principal Helen Williams, who said it would affect rural schools.

She had two junior classes visit the aquarium in Picton yesterday which had been lovely, but trips such as that could be curtailed in the future.

"Blenheim and Whitney St Schools can walk to the library and art gallery, but we can't," she said.

Parents picking up their children at St Mary's School in Blenheim yesterday were positive about the proposed change, with one saying she did not realise it was not compulsory already.

Kate Gaines said she thought the move was good, and safer for children.

Making it by age and not size made it easier for the children and their parents.

"We do it anyway."

Annie Thompson said she thought the move was "awesome". Her 8 year-old son was still in a booster seat, and he was not allowed to sit in the front seat of the car.

"I'm passionate about carseats."

Tracy Price said she thought the change had already gone through. It might be an extra hassle for school trips, but that was not a big deal, she said.

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Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse said the changes, agreed by the Cabinet last year, would improve the safety of child passengers and were designed to reduce injuries and save young lives.

"Increasing the age from 5 to 7 aligns New Zealand with the rules in Australia and Japan. Children can be particularly vulnerable in crashes due to seat belts being designed for larger bodies, and it's important that they are restrained appropriately."

It remained the driver's responsibility to ensure any child under the age of 15 years travelling in their vehicle was correctly restrained, either in an appropriate child restraint (up to seven years of age) or a seatbelt.

Mr Woodhouse said that as the new requirement would come into force on November 1, parents and caregivers had over four months to purchase appropriate child restraints, such as booster seats, for children who may have stopped using them or who had outgrown their current seats.

The NZ Transport Agency would work with its child safety partners to promote the changes to parents and caregivers.

- The Marlborough Express

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