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Child seat law is the right fit

By Roger Moroney

DRIVEN: The driving force behind the new child restraint legislation, Sergeant Nigel Hurley, with a couple of seating options for children up to the age of 7. PHOTO/GLENN TAYLOR HBT134219-01
DRIVEN: The driving force behind the new child restraint legislation, Sergeant Nigel Hurley, with a couple of seating options for children up to the age of 7. PHOTO/GLENN TAYLOR HBT134219-01

After more than a decade of lobbying and leading the charge for a change in the laws governing child seat restraints in cars, Hawke's Bay Police community relations sergeant Nigel Hurley was smiling today.

"It's a good day - a very good day," he said as new legislation was introduced for all children up to the age of 7 to use approved child restraints while in a car.

Until today child restraints only had to be used up to the age of 5 - when children could then be put behind a standard seatbelt.

That, Mr Hurley said, had been a recipe for tragedy which needed to be changed as small children could easily slip from a larger belt or face serious neck and throat injury as it often crossed at that area of their body.

"This is all about saving lives," he said, adding that as a police officer called to crash scenes it was often devastating to see the result of an incorrect restraint.

"We have been pushing for a law change for a number of years," he said.

It was a law change effectively driven by Hawke's Bay agencies like the Hawke's Bay Road Safety Compliance Trust, which he has been part of in a civilian role since 2002, Roadsafe Hawke's Bay, Plunket, the District Health Board and the Accident Compensation Commission.

"We have had a number of people in Hawke's Bay who have stuck together from the start to see this through - it has been a real community effort."

The trust was sparked up in 2000 largely as a result of Hawke's Bay having the worst child restraint compliance rate in the country - just 67 per cent.

It is now 95 per cent and importantly, Mr Hurley said, young lives had been saved as a result.

The new laws would underline that further, he said.

Over the course of the past five years, Mr Hurley had met with Starship Hospital specialists, Land Transport Agency, senior Plunket managers and even the Prime Minister during a fundraising breakfast, to raise the issue of adding at least two more years to the restraint legislation.

Along with the trust's project coordinator Liz Schlierike and Plunket representatives, Mr Hurley pushed the issue with local MPs and also prepared a background package which was presented to Parliament.

"A lot of effort went in by a lot of people and we worked for a long time to get this."

He said the commitment of all the safety agencies in the Bay made the region the "leaders in the field".

Mrs Schlierike said the trust was ensuring all kindergartens, schools and kohanga reos were fully up with the new rules, and pamphlets had been widely distributed.

"We have had some really positive feedback," she said.

In close association with Roadsafe and the trust, police will carry out checks over the coming weeks but it was not just about handing out infringement tickets, Mrs Schlierike said. "It is education."

Information and advice would be handed out and people re-visited to ensure they complied with the new rules.

She said any public criticism in regards to the cost of getting an appropriate restraint was off target as most people would have had one for a child up to 5 and likely then stored it.

They could also be picked up for between $20 and $50.

"And in the end, what is the cost of a young life?"

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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