March 28, 2021

Ways to avoid fatalities from car backovers


Help reduce backover injuries and fatalities with these ideas.

Watch this article as a video

The previous post discussed how thousands of people (mostly children and those over 70 years) are killed or injured each year due to cars backing over them. Most of these accidents occur in driveways and shopping parking lots.

There is a bundle of modifications to the way we drive that could help reduce this.

Video from Intermountain Health: Primary Children's Hospital

Backing into parking spaces

By backing into parking spaces, driveways, and allies, drivers reduce the chance of accidentally backing someone over. Before the car can back in, it must 'drive past' the spot. In doing so there is an opportunity to visualize that it is empty. The spot may also be protected by other cars or buildings, which reduces the chance someone may walk-into the space when backing into it.

Having backed into a parking space, it places the driver in a safer position to leave it because face forward when leaving. This not only improves the visibility directly in front of the car, but also increases visibility to the left and right.

Making back-in parking the default in places like schools & church parking lots is a no-brainer. Some may argue that access to the trunk is essential for loading from some stores, and I see this argument, and there is a future post addressing a workaround to this.

Backup cameras on cars

In 2008 the US Government passed the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act that mandated all cars sold in the USA starting in 2018 require a rearview camera. (The act also mandated power window safety modifications to prevent crush deaths and modifications to prevent motor vehicles roll-aways. (The full Act here

Rearview cameras are a huge step forward but are not perfect. I find in the winter months, or when wet, the camera is obscured.

If your car doesn't have one, you can install an aftermarket backup camera or 360 camera system for a few hundred dollars.

Image from Intermountain Health

Backing up with a window down to listen

‍This may be particularly helpful when in busy parking lots or during the holiday season when people's hands may be full and hurried, increasing the risk of fatalities and injuries from run-away kids in lots.

Walk around the vehicle before getting in

Taking the long route to the driver's door by walking around the vehicle allows you to see if any children, pets, or stuff (e.g., bikes, brooms) may be in front or behind the car. From looking online, it seems this type of practice is routine in military-trained drivers before getting into a vehicle.

Driveway maintenance

High hedges, snow piles, and fences at the driveway entrance hide pedestrians, cyclists, and cars passing by.

Childhood education

When children are too young to follow directions reliably but are walking already (think around a year or two old), locks should be installed on doors to prevent children from leaving the house. It seems that a number of fatalities and injuries occur when the child leaves the house (without the adult knowing) and enters the driveway as the car arrives or leaves.

Children must be taught the obvious rules of safety around roads. In addition to the regular lessons around not running onto the street and looking both ways before crossing roads, it may be worth stressing that they also should be careful when on the sidewalk and crossing a driveway.

It may be a good rule for children to never play on the driveway, cul-de-sac or parking lot without an adult directly watching them. This type of practice is helpful because your kids can follow it when they go to other people's houses.

Commercial parking lots are hazardous and it's hard to keep kids from darting off. For this reason, some sites recommend that young children are carried in strollers or in shopping carts when walking across the parking lot. In general, children should be taught never to cross or walk around a parking lot without an adult beside them. And more generally, they should never walk behind or in front of a running vehicle without an adult beside them.

Parking Pal

There is a magnetic sticker with a hand on it called a Parking Pal that can be stuck to the side of your car. The idea is that when in a busy parking lot, children are to place a hand on this sticker. This routine for the child when the car is loaded and unloaded, in theory, reduces the risk of them wandering into the parking lot when the adult is distracted. I'm not sure a sticker on the car is needed, but I think the general principle of having a clear routine of where kids stand when the car is loaded and unloaded makes sense.

References - Backover Fact Sheets

Intermountain Health: Spot the Tot

The prevalence of driveway back-over injuries in the era of sports utility vehicles. Journal of Pediatric Surgery. December 2005.

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