Drivers Fact Sheets

Children In And Around Cars

Most accidents involving children and cars occur when a child is travelling in a car that crashes. However, there are also cases where children are injured, and sometimes killed, when they are in or around a car, but the family car is not in a road accident on the highway.

Between the ages of one and two years, infants’ mobility increases at a terrific, but irregular rate, so they can easily escape a parent’s supervision for a short time and get into difficulties before the parent realises they have moved. It is not until the age of four or five that children begin to understand the concept of danger, and begin to heed warnings given to them.

These tragic cases usually involve a vehicle reversing over a child on a driveway or a child being injured by something inside the vehicle, such as an electric window. One of the most common occurrences is small children’s hands or fingers trapped in a car door. There are also cases of hypothermia cause by children being left alone in a hot car in the middle of summer and there is even a case where a child has started a car which then reversed over a second child.

In this fact sheet we draw attention to these risks in detail.

Driveway Safety For Children

Driveway safety is a very demanding responsibility for parents or guardians of young children. Even when closely watching your children, it is difficult to react quickly enough when they run out from your driveway into the street either chasing a ball or riding a toy. Some of the most devastating motor vehicle accidents involving children occur in the driveway.

Driveway safety statistics show that children who do survive sustain severe and permanent physical and brain injuries. In fact, the driveway is the second greatest killer of young children around the home

Fatal driveway accidents tend to occur on weekdays as opposed to weekends, usually between 8:00am and 10:00am in the morning, and between 4:00pm and 6:00pm in the afternoon. Most of these accidents occur in good weather and bright conditions, times when children play outside.

It is necessary to point out these driveway accidents are still rare.

The risks posed to small children in driveways cover two areas:

  1. Being run over by a car backing out of the driveway
  2. Running into the street while playing in the yard

Preventing Your Child From Being Run Over In The Driveway

  1. One and two year olds form the age group most likely to be killed or injured in home driveways
  2. The vehicle is usually moving slowly and is often being driven by a parent, relative or friend
  3. A slow moving vehicle backing down a driveway can trap a child, and cause fatal crushing injuries. Children who do survive often suffer severe long-term injuries
  4. Small children, particularly toddlers, can be impossible to see if they are directly behind a car
  5. Most drivers are aware of their car’s blind spots, and studies show that there is a large “blind spot” behind most cars, particularly when driving in reverse. Even cars with parking sensors or a video camera may not notice a small child until it is too late to stop
  6. It is easy for drivers to let their guard down or go into autopilot when doing tasks that they perform daily – such as reversing onto or off a driveway – and this makes an accident more likely
  7. Parents are often unaware that a child has managed to get out of the house
  8. Where possible, it is better to reverse onto a driveway, and drive off forwards
  9. If you are home alone and need to move your vehicle, securely put your child in the car while you move it

Before reversing remember to:

  1. Make sure you know where all children are and walk around your vehicle before leaving an area where children have been playing
  2. Before moving off, check around the vehicle by using the mirrors and looking over your shoulder. Be aware that you have blind spots around your vehicle, especially directly behind the vehicle, where small children can be hidden from view
  3. When reversing, make sure you perform the manoeuvre slowly, which gives you time to keep checking all around you. The rear window gives you the best view out of the rear of the car

Protecting Your Children From Running Into The Street

  1. Always watch your children and never leave them alone while playing in the yard – especially near parked or moving vehicles
  2. Ensure their safety by holding their hands or keeping them close to you
  3. Use security doors, fencing or gates for areas that exit your home to make access to the driveway difficult for young children
  4. Never allow your unsupervised child use your driveway as a place to play
  5. Create an alternative safe play area for your children
  6. Many parents use their car to block the driveway or erect a temporary barrier out of wood or whatever else may be lying around the garage. Many of these barriers are not sturdy and children on riding toys can be injured if they collide with the barrier or car
  7. Consider a driveway safety net. It extends across the bottom of your driveway. It is a low-cost, easy-to use portable mesh barrier that acts as a deterrent by preventing children and toys from leaving the driveway and entering the street. It also acts as a visual barrier to deter vehicles from entering the driveway where children are playing. This is especially important when vehicles parked on the street next to your driveway can impair a driver’s vision

  Inside The Car

  1. Young children should never be left alone inside a vehicle, even when the engine is turned off. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area
  2. Never leave the keys in the ignition when you get out of the car. Also, keep the car keys in a safe place, out of reach of children, in the house
  3. Even if you are intending to start the car again very shortly, always remove the ignition keys. A child could start the car or a car thief could jump in the car and drive off – there have been several cases where this has happened with a child still in the rear seats
  4. Another useful tip is to lock turn the steering wheel after removing the ignition key; this is usually done by turning the steering wheel until it locks. This makes it more difficult to start the car because when putting the ignition key back in to start the car, the steering wheel also has to be turned to release the steering lock. This would make the car more complicated to start for a young person
  5. If possible, turn the wheels so that if the car moved, it would be stopped by the kerb or something similar. (Rule 252 of the Highway Code advises this when parking on a hill)
  6. Make sure that dangerous items are not kept in a car where children can get hold of them. There are cases of children starting a fire in a car with matches that were left in the vehicle, swallowing rat poison and being hurt by sharp objects, such as fishing hooks
  7. Store cell phones and other small items in the glove compartment
  8. Unsecured vehicle cargo affects child car safety. Nowadays, people are carrying a lot of items openly in their car. If the driver brakes too quickly heavy items such as suitcases and toolboxes resting in your open cargo area can propel forward pushing even a restrained child into the back of your seat or through the window. The best prevention is to invest in a carrier barrier or net, or at very least strap down large items using the anchors in the cargo area
  9. Another common injury is children getting their hands, fingers, legs and sometimes heads caught in a car door as it is closed
  10. Heat inside car can damage or even kill children quickly. When a child is intentionally left in a hot car or accidentally locks themself in the car or boot, hyperthermia, which is excessive exposure to heat causing death, can set in as quickly as 10 minutes. Even leaving a window open slightly does not help. If you are abroad, on holiday, with the children in a hot country and using a hire car be even more careful

It is important to remember that:

  1. Any children travelling with you are strapped in with the appropriate restraint
  2. Any children who need a child seat or cushion have the appropriate size and use it
  3. Any children travelling with you don’t remove their seatbelts or climb out of their seat or restraint
  4. Any children in your vehicle don’t get overexcited and start bouncing around out of control

To sum up, injuries to children in and around cars can be prevented by:

  1. Having a greater awareness of the danger
  2. Following simple safety rules
  3. Being more vigilance as parents

Nothing can replace parental supervision as the primary solution to child safety. Proactively watching our children can be a challenge, however it is better to meet the challenge than to suffer the consequences.

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