Government blindness drives toddler deaths, says campaigner

The government’s strategy of preventing driveway accidents through education has been a dismal failure, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an active road safety campaigner, says the technology exists to prevent most driveway accidents at very little cost.

“In a major recent study, about three-quarters of drivers in vehicles fitted with reversing cameras or beeping parking sensors, avoided a reversing accident.”

“On the vehicles in the same test that didn’t have either cameras or reversing sensors, 100% of the drivers ran over a child-size dummy that had been secretly placed behind them while they were reversing.”

“It’s time to face facts: the current approach to solving driveway deaths is not working. I’m wondering how many more children need to die before the so-called experts accept the obvious: trying to reduce driveway accidents by changing behavior doesn’t work.”

“No parent can know where their kids are 100% of the time. Keeping track of one toddler is a full-time job. Keeping track of more than one toddler is a nightmare; the larger the family, the greater the risk. You can’t change children, but you can change your car, so a toddler darting out of the house onto your driveway doesn’t become the next tragedy.”

“No one is claiming this technology is foolproof. Adults still have to take care around young children. Reversing cameras and beeping parking sensors simply give more information to the driver, in the same way rear view mirrors give more information to the driver.”

New Zealand has one of the worst rates of children being killed by cars on driveways. An average of five children a year die on driveways and a child is seriously injured about every two weeks.

The government is investing $30 million on childproofing state house driveways, but this is a tragic misuse of road safety funds, says Matthew-Wilson.

“Childproofing state house driveways isn’t going to stop three quarters of driveway accidents. The problem is not merely that children wander into driveways, but that that person reversing down the driveway doesn’t see the child. This blindness is largely due to poor vehicle design.”

“A reversing camera provides far better protection than a driveway fence. Remember also, a reversing camera protects children wherever the vehicle is driven, not just in the driveway at home.”

Matthew-Wilson says that, for a fraction of the $30 million that the government is spending on fencing driveways, it could fit thousands of reversing cameras on poor people’s vehicles.

“Not only is the government’s policy very expensive, it will be limited in its effects and will take years to make any difference. A reversing camera reduces the risk of driveway accidents from the day you install it.”