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Friday, February 06, 2009

Backing Up Safely – Watching for Children

As a parent, nothing is more disturbing than the thought of losing a child. Unfortunately, this happens to a significant number of parents each year when they get in a car and back over a child who couldn't be seen behind the vehicle.

Statistics on this issue are hard to come by, and it is believed that the reported incidents don't fully cover the extent of the problem. One source of information on this issue comes from Kids and Cars, a website devoted to education and awareness of this and other matters involving children and motor vehicles. This group estimates that two children a week are killed this way. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 2,767 children were victims of reverse/back over injuries between July 2000 and June 2001. This estimate comes from data obtained from computerized reports of hospital emergency rooms.

Many drivers don't realize just how large a blind spot exists behind their vehicle. According to Consumer Reports, a sedan has a blind spot of up to 11 feet behind the car, a minivan has a blind spot of up to 18 feet, and a large pickup truck results in the driver’s view being obscured for up to 28 feet to the rear. It is difficult to see a child in such large blind spots.

Technology offers some solutions. Backup sensors can warn a driver of an object behind the car. Backup cameras are offered as options on many new vehicles, and wireless cameras can be purchased at a relatively low price. Video displays can be mounted on the dash or visor. They offer a wide angled view of the area behind the vehicle, and provide night vision capability. Kids and Cars is pushing for federal legislation that will require auto makers to install these technologies on all new cars.

Although technology can make a difference, it can't relieve the driver of the responsibility to back-up safely. The following tips may help:

1) Check behind the vehicle for any obstructions before getting in and starting up.
2) Don't depend on your mirrors to provide a full view to the rear of your vehicle.
3) Look over your shoulder to check your blind spots.
4) Back up very slowly.
5) Be prepared to stop at the slightest bump.
6) Teach your child to walk around vehicles where they can see the driver and the driver can see them.

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