An experienced road safety campaigner has described the actions of adults allowing a toddler to drive a car in Whangārei as child abuse.

Alarming footage posted on social media shows a toddler driving a car across lanes in Whangārei on Sunday night.

A person, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newshub she was shocked when she saw the footage on the toddler's mother's Instagram.

"I just think it's so brainless and stupid and not cool at all," they said.

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The video captioned "Drove me to KFC" shows a 3-year-old sitting on the driver's lap with its hands on the steering wheel

The car is seen going through a green light and across a lane while the mother shows off the KFC they bought.

Gillian Archer, RoadSafe Northland road safety co-ordinator for the Whangarei and Kaipara Districts.
Gillian Archer, RoadSafe Northland road safety co-ordinator for the Whangarei and Kaipara Districts.

RoadSafe Northland road safety co-ordinator for the Whangarei and Kaipara Districts Gillian Archer, with 17 years' experience in road safety, said she was shocked and saddened to learn that a child at been put at risk for no need.

"It's shocking that children are being put at risk by those who are supposed to love them the most,' Archer said.

"The child has no say and it's such risky behaviour. I believe such incidents should be flagged with Oranga Tamariki, it's a form of child abuse and there is no excuse for this."

Over the years, Archer said, there had been huge amounts of work done in the community to raise awareness about the need to wear seatbelts, both for adults and the correct restraints for children.

The fact people did not wear seatbelts had been a big factor in fatal crashes in Northland over the years.

"I'm shocked this is happening in our district. This was the sort of behaviour I saw 17 years ago. It's not a joke, it's not funny. This is a serious incident," Archer said.

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Police said in a statement the actions were dangerous and could have led to a serious accident.

"Wearing your seatbelt and making sure your children are properly restrained will keep you and your children safe, as even a low-speed impact can cause to a great deal of harm to an unrestrained child," a spokesperson said.

"Keeping children restrained at all times when they are travelling in a vehicle also reduces the risk of the driver getting distracted, which could potentially pose a risk to the safety of other road users."

This is not the first time a child has been spotted driving a car.

At the beginning of this year, a motorist shared her disbelief after witnessing a preschooler steering a car on Auckland's Southern Motorway in peak hour traffic.