Road safety charity Brake, Thrifty Car Rental, and more than 8,000 children around NZ are calling on all drivers to ensure children are protected in vehicles by using appropriate child seats, as some drivers admit to not using them.
A Brake survey found that 6% of people admitted to not always using an appropriate child seat when carrying children under the age of 7 in a vehicle. For children over the age of 7 but under 148cm tall, 20% of respondents said they don't always use a child seat appropriate for the child's height and weight.
Whilst legally children need to be in a child seat until they are 7 years old, Brake recommends that they stay in one until they are 148cm tall. Wearing just a seat belt they are at greater risk of serious injury or being killed in a crash, as an adult three-point seat belt on its own only gives full protection once you are over that height.
Using a properly fitted child restraint that is appropriate for a child's height and weight reduces the risk of death, and can prevent the most serious injuries in many crash situations . Rear-facing child seats can reduce the likelihood of death and injury in young children and small infants by up to 90% .
The findings come as more than 8,000 children at almost 200 schools and childcare centres around the country take part in Beep Beep! Day run by Brake and Thrifty Car Rental. The project for kindergartens, schools and childminders engages young children with key road safety messages such as using a child seat when in the car and holding hands when walking near roads. It also crucially helps to raise awareness with parents and the local community of these messages.
Wednesday 9 May is the first National Beep Beep! Day that has been held in NZ and takes place as part of Road Safety Week 2018.
Each week, on average, seven children under the age of ten are injured on NZ roads . Beep Beep! Days provide an opportunity to engage children, parents and the community in road safety messages, reminding parents and drivers of their responsibility to help protect children when driving, and helping to save young lives and reduce injuries.
Caroline Perry, Brake's NZ director said: "All children have the right to live a safe and healthy life, but they need parents, drivers and the wider community to help protect them. A properly fitted, approved child seat offers much more protection in the event of a crash than a seat belt alone so we urge all parents to use child seats until your children are 148cm tall. The Beep Beep! Day project engages children in key road safety messages, helping them to learn about road safety issues and, crucially, inspiring their parents and local drivers to reduce danger on our roads and help protect children."
Graham Ward, Acting General Manager of Thrifty Car Rental New Zealand said: "Being safe on the roads is extremely important to Thrifty and with increases in the population and more vehicles on the road, on-going road safety education and awareness is critical. Supporting Brake and the work they do in raising road safety awareness is a good fit for us," he said. "If we can pass on road safety messages to our customers, staff and their families, it's another way of helping educate people and reduce crashes and road deaths."
Shannon Flavell, Head teacher, CMKA Settlement Road said: "It's vital that our children and parents regularly hear road safety messages like the importance of using child seats, and Beep Beep! Days offer a fun way to communicate some of those messages. Our kindergarten is near a busy road so we also need people in our community to look out for children and help protect them on roads, so that they can walk and cycle here safely. We're looking forward to running our Beep Beep! Day and to the children learning about some essential road safety issues."
Anyone working with two to seven year-old children can hold a Beep Beep! Day. The day involves running creative, educational activities using guidance and resources from Brake, such as creating a poster of hand prints to remind children and parents to hold hands, playing the 'Belt up' game to learn about child seats, singing road safety songs and baking traffic light biscuits. The activities teach young children the road safety basics and encourage parents to consider the vital steps they need to take to keep their family safe. Children taking part can also raise funds in support of Brake's work campaigning for safer roads and supporting bereaved and injured crash victims.
Brake survey on seat belts and child restraints, 315 respondents, 2018
 Elvik R et al., The handbook of road safety measures, (2nd ed.), 2009
 Jakkobson, L. et al. Safety for the Growing Child – Experiences from Swedish accident data, 2005
 Table 5, Section 2: Crashes and casualties, Motor vehicle crashes in New Zealand for 2016, Ministry of Transport, 2017