The Shocking Truth About Back-Over Accidents


It may seem fairly minor, and by some standards, it is: you back up and accidentally run over a bike, or tap a parked car, or get yourself into another minor incident you grouse about as you fill out an auto insurance claim form.

But the truth is, back-over accidents are dangerous. In fact, back-over incidents disproportionately affect children. Unfortunately, in the case of children, more than half of these incidents are fatal.

The Facts

The NHTSA analyzed back-over incidents from October 2006 through 2007, and found some pretty surprising results. Thankfully, the overall number, the NHTSA found, was fairly low: in one year, there were 52 cases of back-over, non-crash incidents, which is how cars hitting pedestrians are classified. Unfortunately, of those 52 cases, 45 of them involved children, most between the ages of one and nine. And 27 of those cases were fatal.

How is this happening? It’s an unfortunate mix of child behavior and the design of cars. The majority of these incidents, 33, happened in pick-up trucks, vans, and SUVs. The problem is that cars, as a rule, have four blind spots, but the key one is, of course, the back: the taller your car is, the more limited your visibility is within a certain range. A child could be playing right behind your car, and depending on the size of your blind spot, you’d never know.

A second problem is the fact that kids are, well, kids. Quite a few of these accidents happened because a child ran out in front of a car backing up too quickly, and the child was struck. There was literally no time for the driver to react, even if he or she saw the child at the last second.

How Do We Prevent This?

– Start with the most basic rule: teach your children about cars and car safety. Teach them to always be aware of cars around them, and to never run across a driveway with a car in it. Also make sure they understand what a car looks like when the motor is running.

– Similarly, for young children, make sure they can’t wander off. Check to ensure gates and doors are locked tight.

– Next, adjust your car mirrors. Too many cars have their mirrors adjusted to create blind spots of their own making. Use this handy guide from Car and Driver to give you a fuller view of the area. This won’t just help with backing up; it will also help you on the road and possibly even save your life.

– If that’s not enough, consider installing a rear-view camera. In fact, you’ll be ahead of the curve; Congress, acting on the NHTSA’s data, will be issuing rules requiring cars to have rear-view cameras as a safety feature at the end of this year. A side benefit: speak to your insurer, as it may lower your auto insurance costs.

– Most importantly, though, is all of us changing our behavior. We admit it: we’ve backed up too quickly more than once. You probably have, too. Make a commitment to yourself to drive safer, so that others don’t get hurt.

If we work together, we can make sure back-over accidents stop hurting children. And that’s the best thing we can do as drivers, as parents, and as citizens.

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