Around 2,400 kids each year – or approximately 50 children each week – are injured after being struck or run over by a car that is backing out from a driveway. Of these, around 2 kids will die each and every week from their injuries, (or around 100 every year), according to 2007 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All told, backover accidents account for around 42% of all non-traffic related auto fatalities involving children each year. Front-over’s account for another 22%. Most of the time it’s a relative behind the wheel – often a parent – who runs the child over.
How driveway accidents happen
These accidents occur from a lapse in supervision as someone is either leaving or coming home from a trip. A child is lost track of for just a moment and ends up either in front of or in back of the car without the driver noticing. A child may slip out the door without being seen, and so the person leaving assumes the child is still safely inside. Or a child may break away and run after the parent who is leaving, either because they want to tell them something, need a last minute hug or kiss, or otherwise feel they need their parent. Occasionally they occur because a child is playing/hiding underneath a car.
What parents can do to avoid driveway accidents
- Always do a walk-around of the vehicle before you get in to drive away, looking not just around the tires and underneath the car but also in the general vicinity in each direction for any kids that may be nearby (yours or someone else’s). If there are, make sure you keep a visual on them your entire time backing out. Stop immediately if you lose sight of one. Get in the habit of doing this not just around your home, but every time you back out. Kids are everywhere, after all, and you don’t want to be one of those people who accidentally hits a child in the parking lot.
- Understand that ALL vehicles have blind zones, and get to know where they are on your vehicle. Every car has areas in the front and back that can’t be seen from the driver’s seat. Blind zones in the front of the car can extend 6 to 8 feet long and be as wide as the car. Blind zones in the back can be even longer – seven to eight feet wide and as much as 20 to 40 feet long. The higher off the ground the driver sits and the bigger the car, the larger the vehicle’s blind zones.
- Never back out in a hurry. It doesn’t matter how rushed or how late to work you are, that 10-20 seconds you might save in your rush to back out is not going to make an appreciable difference.
- Be sure to keep your driveway / yard clear of toys, balls, sports equipment, or other debris that could tempt a child to dart behind your car.
- Hold toddlers and young preschoolers when someone is backing out so they aren’t tempted to run away or wiggle from your grasp.
- As soon as your kids can walk and talk, explain to them how important it is to never try and run after mommy or run / play behind a car. If they need to get an adult’s attention, they can jump up and down or wave their arms while shouting, but don’t run after the car.
Backup safety systems for cars
Newer cars can come equipped with optional backup safety systems to help prevent these accidents, and you can also have an older car retrofitted with a system. There are two types of backup safety systems: rear sensors and rearview cameras. (An audio backup sensor kit can run anywhere from $50 to $250, a backup video system can start at around $100-$200 for the camera and dashboard monitor, and up to $1,000 to install a complete video navigation system.) You can purchase such systems at your local electronics store or car dealer, and pay for installation or install them yourself.
By far the best system to have is a rearview video system that will give you a wide angle view of everything behind your car. Backup motion sensors (which beep if something is behind you) are less reliable but could help improve safety. Just be sure not to use these systems as a crutch in place of other safety habits. Backup sensors are not foolproof (they may not sound for a child who isn’t moving, for example), and even with a camera, you should still do a walk around to ensure there are no kids playing underneath or around the car, where your camera may not see. Use these systems to improve your visibility when backing out, but don’t let them replace the traditional methods.