Noble McIntyre on June 21, 2016
When you’re riding in a car with your children, you’re probably careful to be sure that they are properly buckled into child safety seats in order to keep them safe. But, what about keeping your children safe around the car—not just in it? One of the less-known causes of fatalities in children is backover accidents.
In a backover accident, the driver does not a see a small child in the rear blind zone of a car and backs over the child. In the U.S., there are at least 50 backover accidents involving children every week. Children between 12 and 23 months old are the most likely to be victims of backover accidents because they are small and hard to see behind a vehicle. Even more tragically, in 70% of these incidents, it’s a parent or caregiver who is behind the wheel.
Although the U.S. has required that all new cars are equipped with backup cameras by 2018, this does not solve the problem. For one thing, any car manufactured prior to 2018 might not have a camera included. For another, a backup camera is not foolproof when it comes to seeing exactly what is behind the vehicle. The range and visibility is still limited, so you still have to take extra precautions.
Most backovers happen in residential driveways and parking lots. Every vehicle has a blind spot, but larger vehicles like SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans have larger blind spots than a sedan. You might be surprised to learn that an average, mid-sized SUV’s blind spot can be up to 30 feet! Even a small sedan’s blind spot could be as much as 24 feet. And, even though quiet vehicles like hybrids are great for the environment, they can also create extra danger when it comes to backover risk because a child (or parent) simply might not realize that the vehicle is turned on.
So, you understand the risks. What do you do to keep your children safe?
Teach children never to play in or around parked cars. Parking lots are not play areas, and young children should be closely watched anywhere that there might be cars backing up. Even in your own driveway, teach children that playing directly behind a parked car should be avoided.
Always closely supervise your children around vehicles. Sometimes, a backover accident happens because adults are just not communicating with each other, or because they’re not watching closely enough. For example, accidents have happened because an excited toddler has run out the door to say “one more goodbye” to grandma as she leaves, but grandma doesn’t realize the child has left the house. Any time children are playing or are able to leave the house unattended, be sure that you know exactly where they can go and whether there are going to be moving cars in the vicinity.
When backing out, have children stand where you can see them. If you need to back out of your garage or driveway while your children are out and about, instruct children to stand to the side of your vehicle where you can see them the entire time you’re backing out. If you know exactly where they are, then if anyone moves, you know to stop immediately. Instruct older children to hold a younger child’s hand, as younger children are not only hard to see, but they are also unpredictable (and don’t always follow instructions).
Don’t rely on detection devices. Backup cameras, sensors, and automatic brakes are designed to be safety features that prevent these kinds of accidents, but they are not fail-safe. You still need to be aware, be looking, and teach your children to stay out of the way. Especially in the summer, when children are likely to be outside playing, it’s a good idea to walk around the perimeter of your car or driveway to make sure there are no children around before you need to back out.
Of course you want your children to be enjoying outdoor fun and frolicking in the summer, but there is no substitute for good, thorough supervision. A watchful eye, whether the driver or someone supervising children outside, goes farther than any device when it comes to preventing an accident.