In April 2011, Peter and Emma Cockburn lost their baby daughter Georgina, at 15 months old.
Peter, a builder was coming home from work and was reversing his builders trailer into the garage of the family home when tragedy struck. Their life, as they knew it, was changed forever.
The number of children killed in driveway accidents in Australia each year is similar to backyard pool drownings. Georgina Cockburn was just like any other curious 15-month-old until she was accidentally run over and killed as a result of the injuries she sustained in her own garage.
Since their daughter’s tragic death, the Cockburn’s have started the Georgina Cockburn Foundation which supports parents involved in low speed vehicle run-over accidents and aims to educate others about driveway safety. As parents, we hear the horror stories, we all read them in the papers and we share the family’s sorrow. We all hugged our kids a little tighter, let the bedtime story extend to two and watched them drift off to sleep just a little bit longer. And we thanked a higher being that we were able to kiss our kids after a long day. That we have more than just memories to hold on to.
But the cold harsh truth is that the tragic story of Georgina Cockburn is only one of many. On average, fifty children are killed or seriously injured in driveways across Australia every year. And it can happen in the flash of a second. It nearly happened to us.
When my son was younger, like many young children, every day he would wait for his dad to come home from work. Normally he sits by the window and watches through the blinds but one day he didn’t. One day he waited outside.
I was inside with my younger child, cooking dinner, and assuming that my son was at the window in the front room. When I heard the familiar roar of my husband’s Landcruiser work Ute pull into the driveway, it was followed by a loud screech of the tyres.
I raced outside thinking something had happened to the dog but in the driveway sat my son, white as a ghost, with a blank expression on his face. He was sitting on the bitumen in front of the Ute. My husband was down on one knee beside him, grasping his shoulders, looking in his face, asking him if he was alright.
He had been hit. The bull bar of my husband’s Ute had knocked him to the ground. He was scared. He was in shock. But he was okay.
If he had been a couple feet closer…
If my husband hadn’t slammed the brake…
If my husband had been in more of a rush as he turned into the driveway…
These ‘ifs’ filled me with anxiety for weeks and is what lead me to want to learn more about just how common driveway accidents are and just how we can prevent them. It is so important for everyone to know how to prevent this from happening. While researching, I found this post online from drivewaysafety.nsw.gov.au.
The post has extremely helpful tips to make sure kids are safe from the dangers of the driveway. These should be done before they get in and out of their cars, regardless of whether they are leaving home, arriving at the shops or pulling into their driveway.
Make these driveway safety tips a habit!
How many of us have children that eagerly wait for dad to come home, that watch for an anticipated parcel from Nana and Papa to arrive through the mail, that look out for a car carrying a friend coming for a play? And how often are they waiting outside, on the driveway? When your children are outside, be there with them.
2. Separate the Driveway
A driveway, even if it’s on your property, should be considered a road. Use gates, roller doors and other means to separate the driveway from their playground.
Talk to your children about the hazards of playing on the driveway, of not checking the traffic and of getting out of a car before looking. Teach your children about driveway safety but of course, you have to learn it and keep it a habit, too. Make it a family mission to learn.
4. Be the first one out of the car (and the LAST one in)
The best way to ensure that your children are safe is to be the first one out of the car and the last one in. That way you will know that your child hasn’t jumped out, crossed the road or ran directly into the path of another vehicle.
5. Do a Perimeter Check
Not only should you always see where your children are but also where others are. Your neighbour’s children may be running up your driveway at the same moment you are pulling out.
6. DO NOT Let Your Children Open the Doors
You never know when someone may be standing at the door or when a car may be pulling out of a parking spot beside you. It only takes two seconds for a door to swing open and cause damage to another vehicle or person.
7. Teach Your Children to Wait until the Car Stops
Kids are eager to greet Dad when he gets home from work and often will run up to the car. Teach them not to do this until the car has fully stopped, until the engine is off and until the driver has acknowledged them.
8. Know Your Driveway
Most driveways will have a blind spot, especially if they are on a curve or if you have to descend or ascend to pull in. Adjust your mirrors or invest in devices that help with backing out safely so you can see those blind spots.
9. Leave Early
When you are late, stress can build up and this is when accidents happen. Try not to rush and always take your time, even if you are late.
10. Use Your Park Brake
Cars can roll, so get in the habit of using your emergency brake every time you get out of the car, just in case.
11. Check the Area Where You are Backing
If you can afford it, reversing cameras are a wonderful invention to see the road behind you. Physically checking the road, footpath and general area for kids, and back out slowly and carefully.
12. And finally, Know Where Your Children Are AT ALL TIMES
Always look out for kids walking past and invest in a reversing camera. Whether you are coming or someone is going, make sure you watch where your children are even if they are not coming with you or even if you are not leaving the premises. You never know when someone may stop by.
Driveway safety doesn’t stop at getting in and out of the car. Make sure you make these tips a habit and please share this post. The more awareness we can raise, the closer we are to put an end to driveway-related accidents.