A September front page article in the Houston Chronicle featured a lengthy, detailed, and poignant presentation of a type of vehicle accident involving young children which is neither new nor rare, but somehow generates less awareness among parents than it deserves. Using both personal narratives and more technical aspects, the article details the injuries or fatalities of (mostly) toddlers who wander into the path of a vehicle backing out of the driveway. The article begins with several parents’ personal accounts of their deeply traumatic accidents to set up a poignant framework to convey preventive measures, including upcoming federally mandated equipment, specifically cameras, that would allow the driver a rear view while backing up.
Many, though not all, of the stories featured were local to the Houston area. One story involved the child of a pediatrician in Oyster Bay, N.Y., who has since become very active in introducing measures to provide better rear-view visibility, noting that each week 40 children under five years are victims of backover accidents, of whom two, on average, become fatalities.
Going beyond the personal accounts, the Chronicle article refers to a page of the website, kidsandcars.org/backovers , which details the statistics, reasons, and measures ongoing to reduce or eliminate these accidents. This valuable auto safety site points out that most of the victims are 12-23 months old, 60% involved larger vehicles such as vans or SUV’s, and that in over 70% the driver is a parent or other close relative. There is an emphasis in increasing the awareness of drivers to this important potential hazard. And the site page lays out a detailed list of precautions, which are summarized below:
- Know where children are and assure adult supervision before moving vehicle
- Teach children that “parked” vehicles might move, and that though they might see the vehicle, the driver might not see them
- Consider installing cross view mirrors, audible collision detectors, rear view video cameras, or other detection devise
- Know your vehicles’ areas of blind zone (Consumer Reports has detailed listing)
- Be aware that steep inclines and large vehicles increase the difficulty of seeing behind
- Hold children’s hand when leaving the vehicle, and teach children to avoid playing around or behind vehicles
- Keep toys and sports equipment and toys off the driveway
- Landscaping should permit visualization of sideway, street, and pedestrians, and should allow pedestrians to see cars pulling out
- Keep vehicles locked at all times and the emergency brake set
- Keys and remotes should not be left where children have access to them
- Be sure all child passengers have left the auto after it is parked
- Be particularly careful about all this and about children around cars during busy, new schedule, or holiday times
Again, this is a common tragedy that should be preventable by constant awareness and attentiveness. And efforts are underway to mandate backup cameras within the next year or two. More details can be found at the kidsandcars.org website and Consumer’s Reports information at http://www.kidsandcars.org/userfiles/dangers/backovers/consumer-reports-bz-measurements.pdf. The link to the Houston Chronicle article is: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/over-in-an-instant/article/How-can-this-happen-4833168.php#/3