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Look around first

Earlier this year, toddler Daniel Kerswel was rushed to Mediclinic Ermelo following a near-fatal driveway accident. His father, Paul, not realising his son had followed him to the car, reversed over him in an SUV, breaking the little boy’s hip and collarbone in the process. Daniel also suffered a collapsed lung – but has made a full recovery.

“Sadly, these types of stories often don’t have a happy ending,” says Tiaan Meyer, Branch Manager for ER24 in Pietermaritzburg. “We’ve been first responders when driveway accidents have led to deaths and serious disabilities.”

To ensure you – and your family – stay safe, always keep your driveway free of obstacles. Even when you’re in a hurry, make a point of walking around your parked car to check for toddlers and young children who might be playing near the vehicle. And don’t ignore obstacles or items that could attract a child, such as a pet, bike or toy. “If children are near vehicles in a carpark or driveway or garage, supervision is critical,” says Tiaan. “Hold their hands – or pick them up – to ensure their safety.”

Tiaan adds that you should discourage children from using driveways and car parks as a play area. “Where possible, use security doors, fencing and gates to keep vehicles separate from pedestrian areas outside the home. And if you live in a complex, ensure there are signs or speed humps to slow vehicles down.”

According to Arrive Alive, many pedestrian road deaths are caused when pedestrians lose focus or are preoccupied. “Children are often distracted by cellular phones, music and conversations when they’re walking,” Tiaan says. “Make a point of reminding your child to stay alert near traffic and to listen and look for unexpected vehicles.” Teach them to be extra cautious when walking in groups too. They shouldn’t assume the person in front of them – or next to them – is concentrating on the road. 

When it comes to crossing the street, teach your child basic road safety. They should be very familiar with the phrase “Stop, look right, left and right again”. “If you’re crossing the street at a bus stop or near a taxi rank, make sure the section of road is not on a sharp bend and is free of parked or stationary vehicles,” Tiaan says. “Avoid other obstacles such as bushes, hills, slopes or rises that can block your view of fast-moving traffic.”

Arrive Alive suggests you should always cross in a straight – not diagonal line. “Remember, the straightest route is the shortest,” says Tiaan. “Crossing at an angle means you’re on the road for longer than necessary – and at greater risk of being hit by oncoming traffic. Even if you – and/or your child – are crossing at a pedestrian crossing, don’t assume the cars will stop for you. Make eye contact with drivers before stepping onto the road. Walk briskly, don’t stop halfway and don’t run either.”

As far as possible, all pedestrians should walk on a pavement or verge. If there’s no suitable walkway, stick as close to the edge of the road as possible – and make sure you face oncoming traffic for maximum visibility. Be especially careful when passing concealed driveways, as vehicles can pull out at any time.

South African motorists should be particularly careful when driving past or near informal settlements situated alongside main roads. As there are often no formal pedestrian crossings or pedestrian bridges available,  both children and adults are likely to jaywalk. This can lead to tragedy if motorists aren’t fully aware of their surroundings at all times.