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Published: 2000-11-08 00:00:00

Police will be out in force throughout the Waikato over the next few weeks spotting cars travelling with unrestrained children.

The checks are part of a campaign to encourage drivers to buckle in their children. Statistics show only 75 percent of children aged under four are restrained in vehicles, although compliance in the Waikato is over 80 percent.

The aim of the Kidz in Carz project is to promote more use of child restrains through education and enforcement.

Police Inspector Kelvin Powell said young children had no choice about travelling in cars or choice about buying or wearing restraints so it became the driver’s responsibility to keep them safe. Every child under five must be properly restrained along with all children of older ages. The fine for allowing someone under 15 to travel unrestrained is $150 per person.

Last year 19 children under 14 were killed in car crashes, and 12 were not wearing seatbelts. Police believe the lives of at least eight would have been saved if they had been wearing a seat belt.

Inspector Powell said two police districts were targeted including Otorohanga, Te Kuiti, Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Ngaruawahia, Taupo and Tokoroa. Local mayors and sporting heroes will also take part, and Ruben the Road Safety Bear will be used extensively to promote seat belt wearing. The campaign will eventually be taken into early childhood centres and Plunket rooms.

A similar campaign was held last year to encourage general seat belt wearing, and found that only 79 percent of drivers and passengers in the King Country wore seat belts – well below the national figure. A three week enforcement blitz caught and fined travellers not wearing belts.

This year’s campaign began quietly late last month with Police stopping vehicles and local car seat co-ordinators surveying to see if restraints were being used and correctly fitted. Inspector Powell said some children’s car seats were not strapped in and were just sitting on the passenger seat. One van load of young children had only two restrained, and one vehicle hid children under the seat when stopped by Police.

From this month vehicle owners with unrestrained children will receive infringement notices from Police and there will be increased enforcement and distribution of “rewards”. These include car tidy bags containing information, Ruben balloons and a Ruben book for children.

The campaign is funded by ACC with assistance from Environment Waikato and some District Councils and support from Police. The local campaign coincides with the national Police campaign focused on restraints.