Motor vehicle accidents are still the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. These fatal accidents are happening more and more close to home, many times in their own driveways. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that every year in non-traffic accidents there are 262 fatalities and 115,000 injuries to children ages 14 and younger. Non-traffic accidents refer to actions that happen off public roads or highways, usually in parking lots or driveways.
Non-traffic Fatalities Involving Children 15 Years Old and Younger: The most common non-traffic accidents that involve children include back-over’s, front-over’s, and vehicle heat stroke deaths. Back-over’s account for 34% of the fatalities, Front-over’s account for 30%, Heat Stroke from a child being left in a car is 16%, a Fall from a vehicle accounts for 2%, a vehicle in motion accident accounts for 5%, an Underage driver accounts for 7%, Drowning accounts for 2%, and then there is 4% that includes other accidents
Front-over’s and Back-over’s: In 2010 there were 70 deaths due to a front-over accident and 66 deaths due to a back-over accident and there were thousands of injuries. This happens because small children cannot be seen around vehicles. At least 70% of the children that were hit were hit by a driver that was related to them and it was usually a parent. Toddlers 12- to 23 months old represent 70% of the victims in a roll-over accident. Children often don’t want to be left behind when a loved relative is leaving so they impulsively follow them out and in return put themselves in a very dangerous position near the vehicle where they often can’t be seen. This same thing happens when parents or other loved ones come home; the child runs out to greet the loved one. The kids usually run right into the vehicles blind zones that are in the front, back, and corners; in these areas the driver cannot see anything even when you properly use mirrors. The rear blind zone averages 7 or 8 feet wide and 20 to 50 feet long. A pickup’s rear blind zone can be up to 50 feet behind the bumper. The front blind zone averages 6 to 8 feet in front of the vehicle. Most drivers just assume that you have full visibility when your car is moving forward but because so many vehicles are high off of the ground you cannot see a small child who is directly in front of the vehicle
What can be done to reduce the problem of blind zones: You can buy a car that already has the safety devices or if you have an older car you can buy backup warning devises for your car. A rearview camera system shows the driver what is behind them using an in-car monitor and a rear sensor system that alerts the driver to any obstacles or people that may be in the blind zones, using an audio warning to do so. Because of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act the federal government is developing a standard rear visibility system equipped with backup cameras that will be mandatory for all cars leased or sold in the U.S.; this is a mandatory requirement to be implemented by 2014.
Heat Stroke Deaths Due To A Child Being Left In A Car: Heat stroke accounts for 16% of non-traffic deaths among children. 2010 was the worst year ever for this type of accident, 49 children died in hot cars. Each year on average 38 children die from a heat stroke because they were left in the car. The most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make is to think it cannot or won’t happen to their family; most of the cases of heat stroke usually involve a loving but busy parent who is rushing off to work. Change of routine combined with a lack of sleep and an overloaded schedule can be factors that lead you to forget your child in the car. Researchers believe that stressed and sleep-deprived brains are more likely to run on auto pilot, which results in the diminished ability to multi-task and when you combine that with a change in the normal routine it can have a deadly result. The simplest change can be deadly, for example if a parent is in the habit of dropping off one child off at daycare and then going to work in the morning. When they have a second child and the parent is ready to go back to work, having a second drop off creates a potential problem. The sleep deprived parent drops off the first child and then heads to work because that has been the normal routine and the new baby is in their rear-facing car seat sleeping and the parent doesn’t realize that they forgot to drop the second baby off. Some factors that contribute to heat stroke deaths are young children, especially babies; many times they fall asleep during the car ride and become silent. Many parents don’t realize the baby is still in the car because a rear-facing car seat looks the same from the front seat whether a baby is in it or not. A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s body temperature. Even if the windows in your car are open some, in just minutes the temperature inside a parked car can reach 125 degrees; leaving the windows opened a little bit does not drastically slow the heat down or even decrease the maximum temperature that the inside of the car can get. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside, the inside of your car still get really hot really fast.
Underage Driver Fatalities: Underage driver occurrences are happening more and more. Most people would consider an underage driver to be 13 to 15 years old; some would be shocked to know that some of the kids are as young as 10 years old. This accounts for 7% of the non-traffic deaths of children. A theory on why this has become such a big problem is the commonness that the young children are simulating driving vehicles in different video games.
Kids Playing in Cars: 30% of heatstroke deaths include children who have been playing in or around cars/trucks and then become trapped in the car. Some children are not capable of using the lock system or door releases to open the doors of the vehicle and some children get themselves trapped because they hide inside the vehicle or the trunk of the vehicle. Children are so attracted to the vehicles because they like to play pretend and act like they are driving like mom or dad. Parents have to make it clear that children should never be left alone in a vehicle and they need to keep all the vehicles locked and keep the keys out of the children’s reach. Now this does not mean it is safe for your child to sit in the front seat, if the airbag gets deployed that could also have horrible results for the child. There is a plan in works that would require that seat belt sensors be installed in all rear-seating positions. Over 50% of backseat passengers killed in crashes were not wearing their seat belts. Once the sensors are installed in the car they could be programmed to alert the driver that someone is still in the backseat, it would be comparable to the warning that people get when they have left their headlights on or the keys in the ignition.