Consultant warns parents about dangers in driveway


A CONSULTANT in emergency medicine has warned parents to be on the alert, after treating three small children who were almost killed outside their homes last week.

Dr Gerry Lane, who is based at Letterkenny General Hospital, said the unprecedented surge in the number of children seriously injured after being struck by their parents’ vehicles, was due to the spell of fine weather.

Launching a “Spot the Tot” campaign, Dr Lane said parents could avoid their worst nightmare by taking a five-second walk around the car before pulling out of the driveway. He also urged farmers to “break your child’s heart rather than his bones” by refusing to allow toddlers to travel on tractors or other “lethal” farm machinery.

“We had three miracles here last weekend,” explained Dr Lane. He said that over a four-day period he had treated three children under six who were lucky to be alive, having suffered appalling injuries either in the driveway or farmyard.

One child was travelling on a tractor when he fell off and was run over by the trailer. “His injuries were significant – he could have been killed,” said Dr Lane. A little girl had to be transferred to Dublin for emergency surgery after being run over by a vehicle driven by one of her parents outside their house, but she was out of danger in time to celebrate her third birthday in hospital last week. The day after she was admitted, a toddler suffered “significant head injuries” after being struck by a car being reversed by one of his parents.

Dr Lane said that eight children under 13 were killed in road accidents in Ireland every year, while 249, just under five every week, were seriously injured. He said for one rural emergency department to see three cases over four days was unprecedented.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the children and the parents in these situations and we all feel, ‘There but for the grace of God’,” said Dr Lane. He said it was important not to criticise, but to try to learn from tragedies.

The HSE pointed out that during fine weather many more children are outside playing on farms and in gardens, and that death or serious injury can occur when they are in familiar surroundings.

“Children have been cooped up all winter and so have their parents,” said Dr Lane. “Suddenly they can play outside, and we all know that children love cars and they love their parents and this can lead to dangerous situations.”

He said that by taking a few simple steps parents can avoid the unimaginable anguish of running over their own child. “They need to ‘Spot the Tot’ before taking off and they should then put their tot on the spot, somewhere like the doorstep, so they can see that they are safe before driving off,” he urged.

“It seems cruel to say this but kids are no bigger than a fox or badger and we have all seen roadkill and the state of these animals.

“We had three little miracles here last week, but I am dreading the next case as it could be fatal,” he added.