Every year, thousands of children are injured and more than 100 are killed because a driver didn’t see them while backing up. Most victims are under the age of 5, and toddlers (0-2 years old) are the highest risk group. The person behind the wheel is often a parent, grandparent, relative or someone the child knows.
Backover accidents are preventable tragedies. Below is important safety information about how backover accidents occur and what you can do to prevent them.
Where Do Backover Accidents Occur?
Most of these accidents take place in residential driveways and parking lots.
Why Are Young Children So Vulnerable?
Young children are small and hard to see out a rearview window. They are highly mobile and unpredictable. They also lack judgment and don’t fully understand the concept of danger. These factors combine to make young children especially vulnerable to backover accidents.
What is the “Bye-Bye” Syndrome?
Young children sometimes dart out of the house to wave goodbye when someone - - especially a parent or grandparent - - is leaving. Often, the driver never sees them coming.
What Kind of Vehicles Are Involved?
Just about any type of vehicle can be involved in a backover accident, because all vehicles have a “blind spot” - - an area behind the vehicle that a person can’t see from the driver’s seat. The shorter the driver, the bigger the blind spot.
Do Some Vehicles Have a Bigger Blind Spot?
Yes. As a general rule, the larger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot. Testing by Consumer Reports found that, depending on the height of the driver, the average small sedan has a blind spot of 12 – 24 feet, the average minivan has a blind spot of 15 – 26 feet, the average midsize SUV has a blind spot of 18 – 29 feet, and the average pickup has a blind spot of 23 – 34 feet. One midsize SUV was found to have a blind spot of 68 feet!
As larger size vehicles such as SUV’s, pickups and minivans have become more popular, the risk of backover accidents has increased. According to Kids and Cars, an advocacy group, over 60% of backover accidents involve a larger size vehicle.
Do Quiet Vehicles Post a Greater Risk?
Yes. Vehicles, especially hybrids, are quieter than they used to be. The quieter the vehicle, the greater a risk of a backover accident.
What Can I Do To Prevent A Backover Accident?
Look carefully behind your vehicle before you get in. If possible, walk around and behind the vehicle. Back up slowly and carefully.Be aware of where children are. Before you back up, make children move away from the vehicle to a location where they are in full view. Be on the lookout for children running out of the house to wave goodbye. Teach children that just because they can see a vehicle doesn’t mean that the driver can see them. Teach children never to play behind a vehicle, and that a “parked” vehicle might start moving. Keep toys, balls and other attractions off the driveway. Trim landscaping around the driveway to ensure a clear sightline. Measure the blind spot on your vehicle. Place a cone behind the vehicle and see how far forward you must drive before you can see the cone.
Can Rearview Cameras Help?
Yes. Some automobile manufacturers are installing rearview cameras in new vehicles. These cameras can also be installed on an aftermarket basis after a vehicle has been purchased. Rearview cameras can assist drivers in identifying people in the path of a vehicle that is backing up.
Are There Limitations to Rearview Cameras?
Yes. Even with a rearview camera, there can still be blind spots at the corner of the vehicle. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns that camera performance can change from vehicle to vehicle and from situation to situation. For example, weather conditions can affect performance and reliability. In addition, the driver must look at the display, identify a person in the path when backing up, and react and brake quickly enough to prevent an accident. Speed, reaction time and driver attentiveness all play a role in the effectiveness of rearview cameras.
Rearview cameras are not a silver bullet. There is no substitute for parental vigilance and making children aware of the dangers of cars. Even if a car is equipped with a rearview camera, the driver should still check the mirrors, look out the back, drive slowly and be alert.
What About Sensor-Based Systems?
Audible warning sensors can detect objects behind a vehicle. They automatically alert the driver when an object is near or if something has moved behind the vehicle. However, these systems are designed as a parking aid, not a safety device. According to NHTSA, the performance of sensor-based systems in detecting children behind a vehicle is “typically poor, sporadic and limited in range.” Therefore, rearview cameras, while not foolproof, are regarded as a superior alternative to sensor-based systems when it comes to preventing backover accidents.