Simple design and construction techniques such as building garages close to roads, using speed humps to reduce speed and using barriers such as self-latching gates to separate vehicle access areas

from yards go a long way toward reducing driveway accidents and saving children’s lives, a new discussion paper says.

Released last week by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, the Driveway Safety Design Guidelines paper sets out six core principles with regard to safe driveway design and construction.

Citing research from New Zealand, the paper says accidents are more common in environments characterised by long driveways, cul-de-sac locations (dead-ends), multiple parking area accessibility from single driveways and driveways running along property boundaries.

According to the research, driveway-related trauma risk increases with the size of vehicle access areas, the number of vehicles using the area and vehicle speed.

Minister for Road Safety Catherine King says on average, seven children are killed throughout Australia each year as a result of collisions with moving vehicles around the home, with a further 60 incurring serious injuries.

“Very young children are most at risk, with 90 per cent of those killed aged under five years old,” King says.

“To compound the tragedy, these accidents generally occur in the driveway of the child’s own home, most often with a family member at the wheel. This is something that no family should have to experience…”

King says the paper gives recognition to considerations such as increasing visibility, separating vehicle areas from other parts of the yard, reducing chances of unintended driveway access by children and helping parents maintain effective child supervision around moving vehicles.

She says the government is seeking feedback from builders and architects, with submissions closing on August 6.

Key considerations to safe design and construction outlined in the paper are as follows:

1)   Identify areas where vehicles travel on properties such as extended driveways and access to sheds for farm vehicles, and consider local environment elements such as road conditions, vegetation, topography and visibility around the house in the design phase.

2)   Limit vehicle area size and speed by, for example, placing garages close to the street to reduce driveway length, installing speed humps and other speed limiting devices, setting aside designated areas for vehicle use and providing visitor parking close to entrances of large housing complexes.

3)   Reduce unintended child access to vehicle areas by establishing separate access routes for pedestrians and vehicles using barriers such as self-closing and self-latching gates to separate driveways from the rest of the yard, avoiding having garage access doors in living rooms or other areas where children spend large amounts of time, installing secure barriers where doors are left open for ventilation and providing outdoor play areas separate from vehicle areas.

4)   Make vehicle areas clearly visible from the house by using windows, doors or partitions to provide clear lines of sight to the garage and vehicle access areas.

5)   Make vehicle areas and surrounds clearly visible to drivers by limiting driveway slope, width and length; installing doors which allow drivers to see out of garages; avoiding vegetation which obstructs driver views and avoiding having driveways cross pedestrian access paths.

6)   Increase visibility at the driveway or garage and footpath intersection by using transparent barriers or slatted partitions as opposed to solid walls where garages exit directly onto footpaths; ensuring side boundary fencing does not obstruct vision; installing external gates, fences and walls that allow pedestrians and drivers to see each other; using appropriately place outdoor mirrors and avoiding landscaping which blocks driver or pedestrian views.