Counties Manukau Police on Friday, February 21 conducted a special operation in the South Auckland region educating drivers about different types of child restraints and its correct use for the safety of the child in a motor vehicle.

The project is called ‘Operation ANAK’ which basically stands for Attention, Knowledge, Acceptance, Kompliance derived from Malayo-Polynesian languages such as Indonesian, Malaysian and Tagalog in which ANAK means ‘child’.

Operation ANAK was conducted on two locations in Mangere, officers standing approximately a kilometre apart, on the median stopping the vehicles on either side of the road. The officers spoke to the drivers and escorting them to an adjacent public car park if they have a child at home or in their vehicle.

Speaking with The Indian Weekender, District Ethnic Services Coordinator from Counties Manukau, Sergeant Gurpreet Arora explained why ethnic communities need better understanding and education around child restraints which is very low, and such operations will encourage compliance in the future and improve child’s safety in motor vehicles.

“We come from a country where special child seat is not very prevalent and used, but in New Zealand, children under the age of seven need to be seated in a suitable child restraint failing which the driver will be subjected to infringement, and fines as it is considered an offence here,” Sergeant Arora added.

Operation ANAK was supported by Auckland Transport and Plunket, volunteers of whom spoke to the drivers about proper child restraints and fastening the seat belt of the child seats the right way.

Sergeant Arora added that just earlier in the morning, they came across a vehicle where a four-year-old was sitting in the front seat without the child restraint which and absolutely wrong.

“We need to create awareness as they is a lack of knowledge amongst the people,” he said.

According to NZ laws, any child under the height of 148 cm will have to be seated in an individual child seat, children within the age of 0-2 will need to be put in capsule sized seat which needs to be placed in the back seat facing the rear. This needs to be done so that the child is safe from the pressure of the airbag in case of a crash. When a child grows, they can be put in a booster seat.

“The simple rule of thumb is- if the head of the child is going above the back of the seat and the head is coming out- then they need to change it. If there is a minimum of two-finger difference between seat top and head of the child, then the child restraint is okay to use,” Sergeant Arora said. 

Police encouraged motorists to approach local Plunket offices in their area to clear any confusion, questions or doubts as they are the specialists in this field, and they can help the community.

“In our community, we use the seats, and then we pass it on to others which ideally should not be done. Like a vehicles’ WOF, even these seats have a fitness level and an expiry date.

“A child seat may look suitable and in good condition, but it may be expired and not complying with the rules of child restraints and jeopardise the safety of the child,” Sergeant added.

Police also encourage people to check the fitness and quality of the child restraint if they are buying second hand and from a family/friend.

Sergeant Arora added that if there are three to four kids in the vehicle, the eldest of them should be seated in the front seat and the seat belts of the children should be on their shoulder and not touching the neck of the child.

“We are not here for infringements; we are just educating the drivers. Auckland Transport arranged for some goodies for the children and Plunket also donated a few seats to the parents on the day,” Sergeant Arora added.

Police and Plunket officials spoke to the motorists in the adjacent public car park. They educated them of the most appropriate child seat, how to properly fit them, putting seat belts correctly, when to change the seats and if they had any queries regarding them.

“The basic concept of this operation was the safety of children in vehicles by using the most appropriate child seats in accordance with their age and height. You may think you are a good driver, but you cannot take guarantee of the other driver on the road. If not seated properly, the safety of all occupants, including children, gets compromised when there is an unfortunate crash,” Sergeant Arora said.

Police personnel and Plunket volunteers speak to motorists in the public car park in Mangere [Inset: District Ethnic Services Coordinator from Counties Manukau, Sergeant Gurpreet Arora]

NZ Police spoke to approximately 100+ drivers and it was well-received by them, most of whom appreciated the efforts of the police for creating this driving and awareness about child restraints and safety for the children in vehicles.