Every week, fifty children are backed over by motor vehicles in the United States. Forty-eight children end up in emergency rooms and two die as a result of these tragedies, which are referred to as backovers. More than seventy percent of those children are struck by a driver who is related to them, often a parent. That equates to 41% of the non-traffic vehicular deaths for kids aged fourteen and younger. It’s preventable. And with the pervasiveness of larger vehicles, it is essential people understand the hazards and enact measures to prevent this growing phenomenon. There are two major contributing factors: young children, who have virtually no concept of danger, and vehicle blind zones. Fortunately, there are numerous precautions that can be taken to prevent these accidents.
Children are at risk for a number of reasons, including their height and inability to comprehend the dangers vehicles present. Toddlers 12-23 months-old represent 70% of the victims. They don’t anticipate the movement of the car and are not cognizant of pseudo-boundaries like sidewalks, steps, and blind zones. Kids, especially toddlers, are often impulsive and victim of what Janette Fennell, founder KidsAndCars.org safety advocacy group, calls the “bye-bye syndrome.” She notes, “Children often don’t want to be left behind when a beloved relative is leaving; they sneak out and put themselves in a dangerous position behind the vehicle where they can’t be seen.”
All vehicles have blind zones on the front, back, sides and corners. These areas are not visible to drivers, even with the proper use of their mirrors and when they turn around to look. As vehicles have grown longer, higher and larger, the blind zones have grown as well, but drivers underestimate the size of these zones. Most vehicles have a blind zone behind them seven to eight feet wide, and 20-30 feet long, but a pickup’s blind zone can be up to 50′ behind it. And the shorter the driver is, the larger the blind zone. Steep inclines also extend blind zones. In front of a vehicle, the average blind zone is smaller, but unexpectedly dangerous, typically extending six to eight feet. From 2004 to 2008, frontovers represented 22.5% of non-traffic vehicular fatalities for children younger than 14 years-old, and over the past two years, frontovers have increased dramatically. Astonishingly, as of July, backovers and frontovers are taking place at an equal pace so far in 2010.
Backovers are preventable accidents. Awareness is key. And fortunately, there are many ways to reduce blind zones and avert these accidents. Vehicles can be purchased or retrofit with backup warning devices to reduce or eliminate their blind zones. Rear sensor systems can alert drivers to obstacles or people in their blind zones with an audio warning. Rear view camera systems show drivers what’s behind them via an in-car monitor. As a result of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, the Federal government is in the process of developing and implementing a rear visibility standard for all motor vehicles.
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