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Automobile Back-Over Accidents: How to Avoid a Surprisingly Prevalent & Serious Accident

There's a type of auto accident that represents a huge risk to children and youths, yet, despite being a "preventable" accident, little attention had been paid to it until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published some startling statistics:

Kids Playing in Street

It looks innocent enough, but kids playing on driveways may disappear in a driver's blind spot, putting them at serious risk of a back-over accident.

An estimated 7,475 U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 14 years were treated for nonfatal back-over-related injuries between 2001 and 2003.

Of these, half were young children between the ages of 1 and 4, most who were sitting, playing or walking near or behind a motor vehicle. Most accidents occur when the driver, not realizing that the child is nearby, inadvertently backs up over the child. And as consumers continue to purchase larger and larger vehicles -- minivans, SUVs, pickup trucks -- it can be near impossible to have all blind spots covered (see below for some tips, though, especially if you own a large-size vehicle).

Pointing out the problem that blind spots can present, the CDC reported that people who were on bicycles or tricycles near a vehicle (and likely were easier to see) were six times less likely to be backed over than those who were sitting, standing, playing or walking.

Most Accidents Happen at Home

Most back-over accidents (40 percent) occurred at home in driveways or in parking lots. And while 78 percent of the time, children were treated and released from the ER, children backed over by motor vehicles risk severe injury and death. Here is a breakdown of back-over-related injuries from the CDC:

  • Arm and leg injuries were most common, accounting for 53.6 percent

  • Head, face and neck injuries accounted for 28 percent

  • Minor contusions and abrasions made up 56 percent

  • Fractures and internal injuries made up 39.5 percent of injuries among children 4 and under and 17.5 percent of injuries among those ages 10 to 14

Blind Spot Warning: Consumer Reports measured the blind spots of four popular vehicles. How does yours measure up?

Honda Accord sedan:
* 12-foot blind spot for an average-height (5' 8") driver
* 17-foot blind spot for a short driver (5' 1")

Dodge Grand Caravan minivan:
* 13-foot blind spot for an average-height driver
* 23-foot blind spot for a short driver

Toyota Sequoia SUV:
* 14.5-foot blind spot for an average-height driver
* 24.5-foot blind spot for a short driver

Chevrolet Avalanche pickup:
* 30-foot blind spot for an average-height driver
* 51-foot blind spot for a short driver

Blind spots refer to how many feet behind the bumper the driver would not be able to see a small object.

Tragically, deaths do occur from back-over accidents. According to Janette E. Fennell, president of Kids And Cars, the only group that tracks back-over deaths from news and other reports, just six weeks into 2005 at least nine children had died in such accidents. In 2004, 85 children died of back-over-related injuries; in 2003, at least 91 lost their lives.

She stressed the need for parental supervision in preventing such tragedies. "Parents need to make sure children are being properly supervised," she said.

How to Prevent a Back-Over Accident

In the case of back-over accidents, prevention is key. Simply letting your friends and family members know about this potential risk could make all the difference, and certainly being aware when you are backing up is an important factor. The following tips will also reduce your risk of experiencing a back-over accident:

  • Supervise children and youth while playing

  • Teach children to never play near motor vehicles, even if they're parked

  • Show children how hard it is to see out of the back of the car

  • Remind drivers in your home to look for children (and pets!) before backing up

  • Keep vehicle keys out of the reach of children

  • If children play in your driveway, park your car at the end of it, near the street

  • Back up slowly and check all of your mirrors before putting the car in reverse

  • Consider fencing off the driveway so children cannot wander onto it

  • Provide children with a safe, fenced in area in which to play outdoors

  • Install a circular driveway, which eliminates the need to back out

Rearview Camera System

Rear-mounted automotive cameras like this one can alert you if a small child is playing in your vehicle's blind spot.

Further, there are two types of devices that can be added to your vehicle to help while you back up: sensors and cameras/mirrors. Sensors use ultrasonic or microwave energy to detect objects within about six feet of the back of your vehicle. A display on your dash alerts you of obstacles by beeping or flashing lights. Cameras can be installed on the rear of your vehicle and project an image of everything over about four feet from your back bumper to a monitor installed inside near the driver.

Camera systems, though expensive, are a rather reliable method to see objects in a vehicle's blind spot, according to Consumer Reports. They say sensors are not always sensitive enough to be relied on when it comes to the potential for back-over accidents.

Accidents can happen no matter how hard you try to prevent them, but in the case of back-over accidents taking the time for one simple step may mean the difference between life or death: As said by Consumer Reports, "Your first line of defense against back-over accidents is to get out of your car and check behind it just before you back up."

Recommended Reading

The Safest and the Most Dangerous Cars and Trucks for 2005



American International Automobile Dealers

Consumer Reports

Kids and Cars

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