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Safety initiative 'set to reduce number of children without car seats'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new safety initiative to reduce the number of fatalities caused by children travelling in inadequate child restraints has been launched in West Auckland.

According to the latest Ministry of Transport national statistics, around 7% of children aged under five are not protected in an appropriate restraint for their age - either an infant seat, child seat, booster seat or a child harness.

New data from taken from NZ Police checkpoints around Auckland over the past 12 months found 63% of the 4014 child restraints checked have some sort of fault with them and; 8% of children were travelling with an inappropriate restraint or without any form of car seat.

OECD International Road and Traffic Accident figures show the fatality rate of New Zealanders aged under 15 years in motor vehicle crashes is greater than 17 of 29 other countries that contribute data to the database. Latest Ministry of Transport figures show of the 377 fatalities on New Zealand roads last year, 4% were aged under 15 in motor vehicle crashes in New Zealand.

Under a community-led initiative for the West Auckland region, dozens of new car seats and boosters will be donated to families found driving with inappropriate or no car seats.

Checkpoints set up around the area over the coming weeks will be staffed by NZ Police, as well as trained technicians from Auckland Transport and Plunket who can assess the appropriateness of car seats as well as educating drivers.

Plunket regional injury prevention manager Simone Budel says the methodology of the MoT research into the use of car seats does not take into account those which are incorrectly fitted or expired, suggesting the number of Kiwi children at risk is potentially much higher.

"Under the current law, every child aged under seven must be properly restrained by an approved car seats. It is also recommended to keep children in appropriate booster seats until they are 148 cm tall.

"Research suggests we are falling well short of this standard particularly in Auckland which at just 11%, has the country’s second-highest rate of non-compliance.

"The types of injuries that a child can sustain while simply wearing an adult seat belt can have horrific consequences. While the lap belt may hold them in place, the shoulder strap can slip, which means they are vulnerable to serious abdominal injuries in the liver and spleen and this can kill children," she says.

"We understand there are those families who simply have to choose between putting food on the table and a car seat, and others who still don’t realise there has been a law change which requires them to restrain their child up to the age of seven when previously it was five, we hope this campaign helps bring this into greater focus," she says.

Budel says many children know themselves what’s required but if a different family member or grandparent picks them up, then their own voice is overridden, she says.

"Children have to do as they’re told by an adult, so it is up to that person to make sure they have done everything in their power to ensure the safety of the child in their vehicle when they’re on the road,

"As adults, we are bombarded with messages about wearing our seatbelts and taking precautions, we need to be vigilant when we’re managing our kids’ car safety too," she says.

Checkpoints will be set up by police beginning Tuesday, 8 October near schools in the West Auckland region where hundreds of vehicles are expected to be stopped and inspected.

A free car seat will be provided for each child found to be travelling in a vehicle without the appropriate restraints for their age and size.

The new car seats and boosters for the initiative have been donated by The Trusts West Auckland - a social enterprise which returns millions of dollars annually to the local community and charity causes from the proceeds of their hospitality businesses and investments.

The Trusts CEO Simon Wickham says West Auckland says their donation is designed to help in addressing the safety of children travelling in vehicles.

"The regulations around child restraints can be complex to understand and in many cases families simply can’t afford to purchase a new one for every child.

"Every vehicle stopped will be assessed to ensure all passengers are safely restrained,

"In a situation where this is not the case, this initiative will give us the chance to remedy this on the spot - helping us proactively protect some of the most vulnerable members of society," he says.

Wickham says their donation is designed help raise awareness and support those in the local community.

"We understand many people living in our region may be unaware of how to ensure their children travel safely in a vehicle or even that car seats which have been handed down from family to family have an expiry date imprinted on them.

"The opportunity to potentially save even just one child from a serious, preventable injury makes this a high priority initiative for our organisation," he says.

The Trusts recently installed dozens of Automated External Defibrillators at locations around the region in a move designed to improve the coverage of the potentially life-saving devices in the West Auckland community.

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