Going backwards

Last updated 05:00 06/04/2014

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As of last year, more children were being killed in driveway accidents in New Zealand than by the domestic violence that so shames our society.

In other words, more kids died from benign, loving people committing even momentary lapses, rather than from raging, monstrously out-of-control adults.

Not only have we been fatally running over or into five of our children each year but, much less conspicuously, one child a fortnight has been rushed to hospital with injuries. Usually serious ones.

In December, a $30 million Government project to confront the deaths and damages on our driveways was starting to get traction. About half that money is being spent fencing off play areas from the driveways of state houses.

Meanwhile, perhaps with more affluent households in mind, car manufacturers have been talking up the benefits of reversing cameras and sensors. And Plunket has been encouraging careful reversing.

Look at us now. Last week an 18-month-old girl died after a driveway accident in Auckland. Just weeks earlier 7-year-old Brodie Molloy died in Southland. Brodie's case was not entirely typical, in that he was a little older, but that is a reminder the perils extend well past the most at-risk ages between 18 months and 3 years.

This isn't a problem in which there's widespread interest in fingerpointing. Even the authorities tend to sigh heavily.

In several countries, authorities are considering making reversing cameras mandatory. New American research has concluded cameras are the most effective technology to prevent reversing collisions, though they are still far from failsafe.

In February, safety activist Jo McLoughlin was promoting a thoroughly low-tech approach. Just a mat, placed somewhere the reversing driver could see it. The rule would be that the driver would reverse only when he or she could see the child or children, safely accounted for, on the mat.

Look, superior driving aids, driveway layout and household practices like not letting kids play on the drive will all potentially save lives. But parental vigilance still trumps it all.

Not just alert driving but knowing where the kids are. Not where they ought to be or shouldn't be, but actually bloody well are. The best achievable prevention technique.

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- The Marlborough Express

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