Safeguard children on driveways and in cars

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Cutting the number of children killed or injured when they are struck by vehicles on driveways is the aim of new research launched by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

The safety charity has identified a number of incidents which suggest that as many toddlers are killed by vehicles on driveways as are killed in collisions when they are passengers in cars travelling on the road.

It is now conducting a survey among parents, grandparents, guardians and carers of children aged up to seven-years-old to gather information about other incidents involving children on driveways.

The survey – at www.rospa.com/childsafety/questionnaire.htm – is also addressing the issue of children being left alone in cars, following a number of incidents in which: vehicles have been stolen with children inside; children have been left inside cars in hot weather; or children have managed to start or manoeuvre cars by themselves.

RoSPA began looking into the safety of children in and around cars after it was approached by the family of a toddler who was killed when he was struck by a car on the driveway of his home near Inverness.

The family of 17-month-old Iain Goodwill, who died in 2007, is now striving to raise awareness of the issue and has set up the Iain Goodwill Trust (www.iains-trust.org) in the hope that it will prevent others enduring similar tragedies.

In 2007, three children aged one to two-years-old were killed when they were travelling in cars on Britain’s roads. An analysis of press reports from 2007 revealed that three children in the same age group were killed after being struck by vehicles on driveways.

And press cuttings from 2008 reveal that at least eight children aged up to seven-years-old died after being struck by vehicles on driveways or elsewhere in the grounds of their home.

RoSPA’s survey, which participants complete anonymously, includes questions about times when children have followed adults out on to a driveway without the adults realising and when vehicles have been manoeuvred on driveways, with drivers unaware that children were close by.

It also addresses in-car child safety, asking whether children have ever been left alone in vehicles and whether children have ever got hold of the car keys without adults knowing.

Lindsey Simkins, RoSPA’s road safety research and evaluation officer, said: “Every parent knows that it is impossible to keep an eye on young children every second of the day. Children are highly inquisitive and they want to explore and try things out, often copying what they have seen their parents doing, but when they are very young they do not understand all the potential dangers.

“Through our initial research, it has become clear that there have been a number of tragedies across the country in which young children have been killed after being struck by a vehicle on their own or a neighbour’s driveway. We have also identified a variety of incidents involving children who have been left alone in cars.

“Our survey will enable us to understand how these types of incidents happen and we will use the information to develop the very best advice to help parents and carers keep young children safe.”

Mark Goodwill, Iain’s father, said: “Following the tragic death of our youngest son, we knew that we had to do everything we could to prevent a similar accident devastating another family. In addition to consulting with car manufacturers and politicians to ensure the fitting of a safety device on new cars to prevent accidental starting by children, we are working to raise awareness amongst parents of the potential for such accidents.

“We are very grateful to RoSPA for compiling this survey and campaigning to prevent another precious young life being unnecessarily lost.”

RoSPA’s survey will remain open until December 18, with an interim report published on August 31.