Coming home from a family celebration or being picked up from school can turn tragic in an instant. The recent death of a 6-year-old girl, run over in a school parking lot in Slidell, LA, is a reminder of the importance of awareness, vigilance, and prevention.
Children lack impulse control, coordination, and the cognitive ability to understand the potentially fatal consequences of their actions. When a ball rolls out into the street or they want one more kiss from grandma, they are on the move! The speed at which this happens can surprise the most seasoned adult. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 110 children are run over (frontover/backover) in parking lots and driveways in America every week. A frontover happens when a slow-moving vehicle pulling forward runs over a child in a parking lot or driveway. Tragically, in over 70% of these incidents, a parent or a close relative is behind the wheel. Injuries and deaths in driveways and parking lots are predictable and beg our vigilance and prevention.
All vehicles have forward and backward blind zones. Larger vehicles have particularly large blind zones, but even a small sedan has blind zones. Adults must anticipate the behaviors of children that lead to frontover and backover incidents. Before moving a vehicle, walk around the vehicle and look under the vehicle. At home, prevent children from sneaking out of the home unnoticed using childproof doorknob covers and/or door alarms (there are inexpensive stick-on door alarms!). If you are alone when moving a vehicle, secure the child in their car seat first. Adults should have direct contact with all children anytime someone is arriving or leaving the home, even when inside. This is when the majority of frontover and backover tragedies occur. In parking lots, carrying children, using shopping carts or strollers are the safest options so they cannot dart away.
Automatic emergency braking technology is now available in select vehicle makes and models. Drivers should be cautioned that not all forward collision avoidance technologies can sense the presence of a very small child. Also available on select vehicle makes and models is a technology that uses a series of cameras and sensors to allow the driver to see all sides of the vehicle prior to moving (birds-eye or 360° view technology). A backup camera is now standard in all new vehicles thanks to the efforts of Kids and Car Safety. Clearly, owners of older vehicles do not benefit from these technologies. However, a backup camera can be purchased aftermarket and added to any vehicle for a fairly low cost.
Being proactive is key to prevention. Do not allow children to play in driveways, cul-de-sacs, or parking lots unsupervised. Create habits that ensure children are directly supervised when vehicles are in motion. Talk to your children about the dangers of vehicles, but never rely on them to protect themselves. Even children who know about vehicle dangers can find themselves in life-threatening situations. Let your children know that parked vehicles move. Teach them that vehicles lights, the sound of an engine running or smoke coming from an exhaust pipe all indicate the car is about to move. Teach your children that the driver cannot see them and to never walk behind or in front of a vehicle without an adult. Teach them to recognize a driveway cut in a sidewalk and to look both ways before crossing the driveway for cars backing out or pulling in. Review with your child, in an age-appropriate manner, the dangers of being in and around vehicles every chance you get.
When I was teaching my son about vehicle safety he said “Mom, I should be careful, so I don’t end up like the goldfish.” I left it right there!
Remember, one moment of distraction can result in serious injury or end a life.
Be aware! Be vigilant! Be Proactive!
To learn more about vehicle safety in and around vehicles, go to www.kidsandcars.org.
About the Author
Nancy Chamberlain, MS, CPRP, Kids and Car Safety is the newest member of the Kids and Car Safety team. She is an educator, a mother, and now a grandmother. She is dedicated to the safety of children and the peace of mind for all parents and grandparents everywhere.