The warm weather is finally here. Parents everywhere are rejoicing that kids can now be outside burning off excess energy. With this good news comes increased safety concerns about vehicle backover deaths and injuries that are unfortunately on the rise.
In 2007, nearly 100 children were killed and 2,000 injured when they were backed over by cars, typically in residential driveways. In a split second lives are changed forever, and in most cases the driver of the vehicle was a loving family member of the victim.
How can these tragedies occur right in the family driveway on a clear sunny day? Wanting to see Mommy, Daddy or other loved ones before they go, a child will run up behind the vehicle at the worst possible time. Children don't realize the driver may not be able to see them. Also, children using driveways as a play area can produce deadly results. Awareness and understanding of the problem are the first steps toward reducing the risk of backover deaths and injuries.
Most drivers are aware there are areas around their vehicle in which they cannot see, typically called "blind spots." The problem is drivers don't realize how big these blind spots can be. Every vehicle has them, and they can range anywhere from 12 feet to greater than 50 feet depending on the sizes of the vehicle, driver, windows and mirrors. Smaller children pose an increased risk in regards to blind spots because the child is harder to see. Also, the slope and size of the driveway can present challenges in being able to navigate the blind spots.
On top of the blind spots are the distractions of the radio, cell phone, I-pod or even just letting your mind wander while backing up your vehicle can lead to catastrophic results. A typical scenario of this may be: a family member gets in the car, and remembers something they forgot so they exit the vehicle and go back into the house. Meanwhile, a child comes outside to say goodbye, and gets behind the vehicle. The driver comes out, gets back into the vehicle, looks in the rearview and side mirrors, and seeing nothing backs up. By the time they realize the child is behind them it is usually too late.
So, what can be done to prevent these needless tragedies? Here is some advice to help back safely:
1. Avoid making your driveway a playground. Teach kids to keep toys and bikes out of the driveway and establish safe play areas. If you do allow your driveway to be used as a playground, establish a physical barrier to prevent any vehicles from leaving a garage or entering the driveway
2. Make sure children are supervised when in and around vehicles
3. Never let children play in, under or around vehicles-ever
4. Always assume children could be present and carefully check the area
5. Walk all the way around your parked vehicle to check for children-or anything that could attract a child, like pets or toys under or around your vehicle before getting in and starting the engine
6. To prevent curious children from ever putting a vehicle in gear, never leave the vehicles running, and keep all vehicles, even those in driveways and garages locked up tight. Summer means hot weather and that will also prevent heat related deaths and trunk entrapment.
7. When backing up, always know where all children are and have them stay in your full view and well away from your vehicle.
8. Look behind you as you back up slowly and keep the windows rolled down and the radio off
9. If you are driving an SUV or truck, remember that the blind spot behind your vehicle can be especially large
10. Many vehicles are equipped with detection devices like backup cameras or warning sensors. These are a good tool, but don't rely on them.