Emma Cockburn on Driveway Safety
On the 16th April 2011, our world was changed forever in an instant, when daddy came home from work - like he did every other day - reversed the tool trailer and ute into the garage, and accidentally ran over our youngest of four beautiful little girls, Georgina. The effect was instant, and we lost our baby girl on the spot.
We had thought, like any other parent, that our kids were safe in their own home. We had deliberately built our house with kids in mind; play areas at one end of the house, garage at the other, a safe fenced-off backyard area where they could play, well away from the garage and driveway.
It never occurred to us that the access door between the house and garage would be an issue. Standard building practice (as we knew, running our own residential building business) was to have all internal door handles at a height of 900mm from the floor. If only we had known ahead of time about installing a self-closer, and placing the door handle higher up out of a toddler’s reach!
Keeping Kids Safe around Cars
Every day we get into our cars without a second thought- to take the kids to day care, school, swimming lessons, soccer, go shopping for groceries, or to get to work and home again.
Every time we get into our cars without that second thought, is an occasion where an accident could occur unexpectedly. In Australia, approximately 60 children are severely injured, and at least 6 or 7 die every year because of Low Speed Vehicle Run Over (LSVRO) accidents.
In our rushed everyday world, we are distracted by phones, emails, thoughts of work, or simply the mountain of chores we have to get done once we’ve got the bigger kids to school. Even without those distractions, we may think we know where our kids are, then in a flash they are gone, as they move so quickly. LSVRO accidents can happen in a matter of seconds. However, simple measures may help prevent these tragic consequences.
The key words to remember are SUPERVISE, SEPARATE, SEE.
Children are unpredictable, so close, active supervision by the adults around them is the best protection.
Active supervision means being there with children when getting into or out of cars, when seeing visitors off. It means physically checking where the kids are when a vehicle is moving on, off or around your property.
Teach children that cars are not toys, and we shouldn’t play in or around them. Treat the driveway like a road- would you let your children play on the road? Set up a system so that everyone knows where the kids are when coming and going - for example, ‘I know Mum’s due home from work in a minute, I’ll just check where everyone is and make sure they are together in the lounge room.’
Separating children from where vehicles are can help prevent LSVRO accidents. As parents, we are human and cannot be everywhere at once, especially when we have more than one child to chase after! So, we ask that people look at their own home environments and consider:
- Is it possible to fence the driveway or is there a safe, fenced off area in the backyard where children can play, where there is no access to garages and driveways?
- Do you have a garage attached to your house, with an access door between the two? Does it have a high handle/lock, self closer, and swing into the house so children cannot push it open into the garage?
- Do you keep the front and back door locked when everyone is playing in the house? Many people have stories of small children suddenly discovering they can reach, and open, the door handle and next thing they are out on the driveway or even road!
If there is a locked door or gate, or fence or wall between a car and a child- there is less chance of an accident happening. (For more details, click here).
Make a habit of taking the long way round to the driver’s door, before getting in to drive your vehicle, to check if anyone or anything is there. Accidents can happen when the vehicle moves forward as well as in reverse. Remember that reversing cameras and sensors are great tools- but they will not stop an accident happening. We always need to:
- Be aware of what is going on around us;
- Keep using all mirrors and reversing cameras if available; and
- Check over shoulders and be aware of your vehicle’s blind spots.
Remember - kids are quick - no technology is a replacement for an alert driver!
These measures are appropriate not just in our own homes, but anywhere you take your children to.
Talk with your family and friends – and any babysitters - so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to vehicles and your children. How will you get the adults in your children’s lives to help you put ‘Supervise, Separate, See’ into action at your place and theirs?
The Georgina Josephine Foundation aims to promote awareness of low speed vehicle run over (LSVRO) prevention measures, and to support families affected by such accidents. Dealing the aftermath of a LSVRO can be devastating for all involved, so if you, or someone you know has been affected by such an incident, please contact us on 02 6382 6930, via our website www.gjfoundation.com.au or message us through our Facebook page.