As the summer months approach, lots of children will be playing outdoors, many of whom will be in their front garden, in a place where they should feel safe and secure. However, most road fatalities involving children in Ireland occur in built up areas and one location where many injuries occur is on residential driveways.
Des Brennan, Paramedic Supervisor with HSE Ambulance Service covering Co Monaghan, has dealt with several such incidents, and is taking this opportunity to remind people of the dangers. “Tragically, in most of these cases, an adult member of the child’s family, a neighbour or a visitor to the house were driving the vehicle. Most deaths occur when children are hit by a reversing vehicle or when the vehicle has rolled back after the handbrake was accidentally released.
He added “It is important to remember that cars are not a safe place for children to play in or around. They should never be left alone inside a vehicle, even when the engine is switched off. Electric windows, choking and fire hazards in cars can all prove fatal to small children. Many parents do not think an accident will happen to their family, unless they know someone who has already experienced one, meaning they do not take simple precautions. But as every parent knows, young children can easily escape your supervision for a short time and get into difficulties before even realising they have moved. Unfortunately, Ambulance Service personnel have witnessed the consequences firsthand and the devastating effects it has had on families.”
Adrian O’Sullivan, Road Safety Officer with Monaghan County Council asks motorists to consider if any of the following has ever happened to them:
- Has a child ever followed you out of the house on to the driveway without you realising?
- Have you ever started to manoeuvre a vehicle on the driveway before realising a child was close by when you thought they were elsewhere?
- Have you temporarily left your children unattended in the car on the driveway, while going back into the house for something?
The Road Safety Officer added that in addition to remaining vigilant as a parent and offered the following advice. “It is a good idea to educate children so that they know the dangers that can be posed by playing in or around parked cars. When parking on a driveway, after checking your handbrake in secured, always park with the vehicle in gear and if appropriate turn the steering wheel so that if the vehicle happened to move, it would be stopped by a kerb or something similar, rather than rolling straight back.
When a vehicle is being reversed off a driveway, small children may not be visible in the mirrors. Where possible, try to reverse into a driveway and drive off forwards. If this is not possible, remember to be aware of your surroundings and where children are. Walk around the back of the car before you get in, be mindful of your blind spots and proceed slowly as you reverse.
As a parent you should be aware of the risks of children running out to greet or wave goodbye to visitors while vehicles are still manoeuvring. Drivers of larger vehicles, such as 4×4’s may have restricted views of children who are close to the vehicle. By following the above simple steps, you can help ensure that children, who are the most vulnerable of our road users, remain safe in their front gardens.”
More information on driveway safety can be found on the Road Safety Authority’s website www.rsa.ie