30 Dec 2008

Blind spot blamed for child's death

9:43 pm on 30 December 2008

A coroner says a child who died when he was run over by a reversing four-wheel-drive might still be alive if the vehicle had better mirrors, a camera, or backing sensors.

The coroner says better supervision could have also saved the boy's life.

Steven Tangaroa Cooper, aged 18 months, died in October last year when he was run over as a vehicle backed out of a driveway in Wairoa. The child's father, Henry Cooper, was visiting a nearby house at the time.

Hawke's Bay coroner Chris Devonport says because of the Toyota Landcruiser's blind spot, the driver would not have been able to see Steven behind the vehicle, unless he had been at least 2.3m away from the back.

Mr Devonport says Steven might still be alive if the vehicle had been fitted with rear-mounted mirrors, a camera, or a backing sensor. The coroner also said the child could be alive if his father had better supervised him.

However, a child safety group says all drivers need to be careful reversing in driveways, not just those who are in four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Ann Weaver, the director of Safekids, say it is not just four-wheel-drives that are responsible for New Zealand's high rates of driveway accidents. She says other vehicles also have visibility issues, and while rear vision cameras are the best option, not everyone can afford them.

Ms Weaver says parents also need to ensure children who are outside are being supervised by an adult, ideally in an area separate from driveways.