A paediatrician has warned against the “hidden danger” of parents rolling over children in driveways.
Alf Nicholson, a professor of paediatrics at the Children’s University Hospital in Temple Street, said while a change in attitude to road safety has resulted in children being secured safely inside cars, more care needs to be taken in relation to “back-overs”.
Prof Nicholson, co-author on a report into pedestrian deaths of children, said the study found more children being knocked down in driveways than he initially thought there would be.
“People are more careful than they used to be on the road, but we really want to highlight the tragic accidents that happen in the driveway, where a parent or relative rolls over a child causing them serious injury or death,” he said.
“In these incidents, we found there were more boys than girls affected, and accidents seem to be more common in the evening time and during summer.”
The report, published in this month’s edition of the Irish Medical Journal, features an analysis of figures from the National Paediatric Mortality Database.
It found the majority of pedestrian deaths in children occur between the ages of one and four years old, and revealed road traffic incidents as a leading cause of child deaths worldwide.
Figures show 45 child pedestrians died between 2006-2011. Traffic-related deaths accounted for 58% of the number, with the remainder classed as non-traffic related.
Incidents of low-speed vehicle rollovers account for 13 of the deaths, with the majority of these happening in driveways. In most cases, the driver was a family member reversing their car.
The average age of children in such accidents was 22 months, with the cause of death due to head injuries.
Prof Nicholson said the death of child pedestrians, particularly in residential driveways, is “highly preventable”.
“Appropriate rear view mirror checks are extremely important, but there is the added measure of cars that have sensors. If the car is approaching an object, which could be a child, the sensors will beep and the driver will be alerted,” he said.
Overall, the study recommended preventative measures should include education of parents and caregivers, the separation of driveways from play areas, particularly on farms, and adequate supervision of children.
The authors also mentioned school road safety programmes as an “important measure” in preventing pedestrian injuries and deaths, citing “simple knowledge, such as an appropriate crossing location, has a big impact”.
The study noted a lack of cognitive skills, attention and perception skills in young children, who may not fully understand the danger of fast-moving traffic.
The increased use of mobile phones could also have a negative impact on children crossing roads, as research suggests they distract them to such a significant degree that they may increase their risk of collision.
However, the study also revealed Ireland has made progress in reducing road-related deaths and injuries in children in recent years.
The number of paediatric pedestrian fatalities fell by 50% between 2004 and 2010 — the decline attributed to changing cultural attitudes to road safety in Ireland, national road safety campaigns, and increased enforcement by gardaí.