HNZ makes driveway safe

Safe to wander:   The Minister of Housing, Nick Smith, with the family whose Housing NZ house had just been made safer as part of the Driveway Safety Programme.
Safe to wander: The Minister of Housing, Nick Smith, with the family whose Housing NZ house had just been made safer as part of the Driveway Safety Programme.

A Motueka family was the first in the region to have their Housing New Zealand home made child-safe as part of a $30 million initiative to lower the country's high death toll in driveway accidents.

Housing Minister and Nelson MP Nick Smith announced that 80 driveways in the Nelson region would be made child-safe at a Housing NZ open day in Motueka.

"All New Zealanders need to take driveway safety seriously as we have one of the highest rates of child driveway accidents in the world. It's estimated that one child is hospitalised every two weeks and five children are killed each year as a result of driveway accidents," Dr Smith said.

He said that more children were killed in driveway accidents than from domestic violence every year.

"Thirty million is a pretty big investment for the Government, through Housing New Zealand, but when you look at the vulnerability of Housing New Zealand's tenants . . . we owe it to those citizens."

Dr Smith said he hoped the programme would inspire private landlords and homeowners to make their properties safer.

Ann Weaver, the director of Safekids Aotearoa, the injury prevention service of Starship Hospital, said research showed that a high number of driveway accidents happened at state houses, which was partly because of the design of the properties.

The Driveway Safety Programme focuses on fencing off a play area away from the driveway, and installing speed bumps on long, shared driveways, convex mirrors at driveway exits where necessary, and signage.

Dr Smith said more than half of the $30m would be spent on fencing at the more than 4000 state houses that have been identified for work.

Housing NZ inspected 13,000 state houses where children under 5 live.

Dr Nick Baker, the head of the New Zealand's Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee said a review of 26 driveway deaths over five years showed that the most dangerous ages were between 18 month and 3, and that for every child that died in a driveway accident, 12 were injured.

He said the campaign to create safe outdoor play areas would have many positive spin-offs, from preventing toddlers from wandering into streets to getting them outside for fresh air, and could lead to lower family stress.

The key safety message to help prevent driveway accidents are to check for children before driving off, always supervise children around vehicles, separate play areas from driveways, and slow down.

The open day at Pikiora Spooner's Woodlands Ave home included representatives from the groups that are involved with Roadsafe Nelson Bays: the Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council, Police, ACC, NZ Transport Agency, AA, NZ Road Transport Association, Bicycle Nelson Bays, motorcycle clubs and the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

Ms Spooner, who has four children, said the new fencing and gate helped to deter her children from getting into the driveway and out onto the road.

"More barriers give you more peace of mind," she said.

The Nelson Mail