New safety initiative aims to reduce numbers of unrestrained kids

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Words: Nile Bijoux
18 Oct 2019

A new safety initiative designed to reduce the number of fatalities caused by children using inadequate child restraints has been launched in West Auckland. This will see those parents who are pulled over given a new car seat for each child, rather than a fine.

The initiative is a joint effort between Plunket, NZ Police and Auckland Transport with checkpoints set up near schools. Underway now in the West Auckland region, 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.

According to MoT data, around seven per cent of children aged under five are not protected in an appropriate restraint for their age. Additionally, 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 in 17 of 29 other countries that contribute to the database.

In response to this, the Plunket-led initiative will see hundreds of new car seats donated to families found driving with children who are inadequately or inappropriately restrained. Plunket regional injury prevention manager, Simone Budel, says the methodology of the MoT research into the use of child restraints does not take into account those that 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 eight must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint.

“Research suggests we are falling well short of this standard, particularly in Auckland which at just 11 per cent has the country’s second-lowest rate of compliance.

NZ Police spokesperson, Shelley Nahr, says preventative education is their primary role 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 we stop 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,” she says.

The new child restraints 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 charities from the proceeds of their hospitality businesses and investments.

“The opportunity to potentially save even just one child from a serious, preventable injury makes this a high priority initiative for our organisation,” says The Trusts CEO Simon Wickham.

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