Children In and Around Cars
Not all car accidents involving children occur on the road. RoSPA research shows that at least 34 children have been killed on, or near, the driveways of their home since 2001. Nineteen have occurred since 2008.
Tragically, in most of these cases, an adult member of the child's family, a neighbour or a visitor to the house was driving the vehicle.
- Most (22) of the deaths occurred when a child was hit by a reversing vehicle
- In three cases, the vehicle rolled back after the handbrake was accidentally released
- Most of the victims were toddlers aged between one and two; the rest were three to seven years old.
It is also important to remember that cars are not a safe place for children to play. Children should never be left alone inside a vehicle, even when the engine is switched off. Electric windows, choking and fire hazards in cars have all proved fatal to small children. A high proportion (63%) of parents surveyed sometimes left children inside the car while they made a quick call to somewhere like a shop or school.
As every parent knows, young children can easily escape your supervision for a short time and get into difficulties before you even realise they have moved. It's a good idea to educate children so that they know not to play in or around parked cars.
Advice for drivers
- Where possible, reverse onto a driveway and drive off forwards. This increases visibility and reduces the time in which a young child can get near the car without you realising.
- Make sure children aren't behind the car before you start it. Check around the vehicle: use the mirrors, look over your shoulder and get out if necessary. If possible, ask another adult to guide you.
- Turn off your radio and wind your windows down so you can listen as well as look out for children.
- All drivers need to be aware of their vehicle's blind zones, it is impossible to see all around your vehicle from inside - even with extended wing mirrors. Larger vehicles, such as 4x4's or vans, may have larger blind zones.
Park in Gear
When parking on a slope, always park in gear and turn the wheel so that if the car moved, it would be stopped by the kerb or something similar.
- Parked facing uphill – use a forward gear and turn the steering wheel away from the kerb
- Parked facing downhill – use a reverse gear and turn the steering wheel towards the kerb
- Always take the keys out of the ignition when you leave your vehicle, and lock it when parked.
Advice for parents/carers
- Talk to your children about safety in and around cars on the drive, children may assume that parents will always see them when driving.
- Discourage children from playing, hide and seek for example, in and around parked cars.
- Keep car keys out of sight and reach of young children.
- Double check you know where the children are when a vehicle is manoeuvring on or near the drive. In several cases parents had thought their child was in the house when they were actually on the drive or that of their neighbours.
More information is available at:
- Driveway Safety Leaflet (PDF 1.2mb) and Driveway Safety Poster (PDF 472kb)
- The Iain Goodwill Trust leaflet (PDF 814kb)
- Children In and Around Cars Factsheet (PDF 87kb)
Driveway Safety Research
RoSPA conducted a survey, in conjunction with the Iain Goodwill Trust in 2010 which found that out of 284 parents who responded, the majority were unaware of the potential for an accident involving their children and a car at home.
One of the main issues identified was that parents and carers do not think an accident will happen to their family, unless they know someone who has already experienced one, meaning they do not take simple precautions.
Of those who took part in the survey:
- 59% could recall a time when their child had followed them out of the house on to the driveway without them realising
- 22% had started to manoeuvre a vehicle on the driveway and realised their child was close to the car when they thought they were elsewhere
- 95% reported temporarily leaving their children unattended in the car on the driveway while they "dashed back into the house" for something
- 42% said their children had picked up the family car keys without being seen to do so.
However, 68% believed it was unlikely that their child would ever be injured by a vehicle entering or leaving their driveway. And 83% believed it was unlikely their child would ever be injured by a vehicle parked on their driveway.
The full report of the survey, Children In and Around Cars: Final Report (PDF 202kb), is available to download.