March 26, 2021

Deaths from cars backing-over people


Each week in the USA, an estimated 280 people are injured and 4-5 people die as a result of backover injuries. Most of them children.

Watch this article as a video

My brother has often commented that backing into parking spaces is safer. Intuitively this makes sense, but I wanted to see what the data shows, and I was shocked at what I discovered.

Summary sheet from Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital

The facts

In the USA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that backovers injure annually around 15,000 people. Another estimated 300 people annually are killed by backovers. That works out to around 280 injuries a week, and 4-5 deaths a week. Which is horrible. Some other sites estimate the number of backover fatalities at 50 per week in children in the USA.


Most of all injuries (around one in two) occur in "nonresidential parking lots," which are effectively shopping centers and stores. The factors of reduced visibility here are obvious.


Most of these injuries and fatalities are people under the age of 5 or over 70 years. Most backovers happen to children that are around one year old.

Most of these fatalities (around one in four) occur in the driveway. In such circumstances, children may be playing in the driveway, and the driver is unaware that they are there. has labelled another unfortunate event as "Bye-Bye Syndrome." Children enter the driveway when someone is leaving, such as to wave goodbye, but are not seen behind the car as they are too short.

Blind spots

The illustration below from the NHTSA demonstrates that a child under 28 inches tall (the height of a one-year-old) would be in a blind spot for about 36 feet behind a vehicle. This poor visibility applies to both cars as well as trucks.

Although children rapidly grow taller than 28 inches, they remain at risk from not being seen. One situation is where they are standing, but closer to the vehicle and still in a blind spot.

The second situation is if they are on the ground, such as playing or injured. NHTSA presents a case example of a child who fell off their bike while crossing a sidewalk, and was backed over by a truck while he was still trapped in his bike on the ground.

This poster from shows how 62 children can be hidden in the blind spot behind a truck.

62 children behind this vehicle

Driver risks

Drivers of all ages and both sexes cause backover injuries. Fatalities and injuries occur from all types of vehicles, but a slightly higher trend is seen among SUVs and trucks.

The references for the above tables can be found below. The next post will discuss the practical downsides and benefits of backing into parking spaces, and the variation in this practice worldwide.

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What you can't see behind the car

Personal stories



NHTSA Non-Traffic Surveillance: Fatality and Injury Statistics in Non-Traffic Crashes in 2015

NHTSA Not-in-Traffic Surveillance 2007 - Children

KidsAndCars.oeg Backover Fact Page

‘Backover’ accidents a hidden problem in Canada

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