With the pandemic keeping many families closer to home this holiday season, more children and teenagers will likely be riding through neighborhoods on new bicycles, riding toys, scooters, roller skates and rollerblades in the days after the holidays. So, the Automobile Club of Southern California reminds drivers and parents to keep young riders safe while enjoying their new gifts.
According to KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit child safety organization, at least 50 children are backed over in the U.S. every week. More than 60% of backover incidents involve a larger size vehicle like a truck, van or SUV and take place mainly in driveways and parking lots. Tragically, in more than 70% of these incidents, a parent or close relative is behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that backover crashes involving all types of vehicles cause 183 fatalities and more than 7,400 injuries each year, although a significant portion of those injuries are minor.
Children who are one year old (12-23 months) are most commonly the victims of backover incidents. That’s the age when toddlers have just started walking/running and are moving around to test their limits, as well as try new things. Children younger than five years old are most at-risk, but children of all ages can be the victim of a backover collision.
“Young people on low riding toys and fast-moving bicycles, as well as children playing in neighborhoods, can be missed if drivers are not watchful,” said Auto Club Traffic Safety and Community Programs Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “We remind drivers to be on the lookout for excited children on new riding toys and encourage parents to go over traffic safety lessons before allowing their kids outside to play.”
To prevent tragedies, the Auto Club offers the following tips:
- Check your blind spots, including the blind spot behind your vehicle that you cannot see in the rear or side view mirror.
- Always assume children could be present and carefully check streets, driveways and areas around your vehicle before backing out.
- Always look behind as you back out SLOWLY with windows rolled down to listen for children – and BE PREPARED TO STOP.
- Don’t rely only on rearview cameras 100%. Research by AAA’s Automotive Research Center in Southern California found both factory-installed and aftermarket rearview cameras increase visibility in the blind zone by an average of 46%. However, a single camera lens mounted near the license plate doesn’t see everything. Pavement that slopes up sharply, as well as moisture and dirt on a camera lens can impact visibility. There’s no substitute for walking around your car, looking in mirrors and over your shoulder before putting your vehicle in reverse.
- Slow down on neighborhood streets. Obey all posted speed limits.
- Watch for bicyclists and toy riders. Look for riders on streets, medians and curbs. Excited children and teens may not pay attention to traffic and cross streets mid-block or between parked cars.
- Keep a close eye on children whenever someone arrives or leaves your home. Often children follow people who are leaving, and the driver is unaware the child snuck out.
- Teach kids not to play in, under or around vehicles.
- Avoid making your driveway a “playground.” If you allow children in this area, make sure it’s only when vehicles are not present and separate the driveway from the roadway with a physical barrier to prevent cars from entering.
- Never leave a vehicle running and lock all cars and trucks, even in driveways and garages, to prevent curious children from putting a vehicle in gear.
- Talk with neighborhood parents about back-over incidents and ask them to talk with their children as well.
- Review safety precautions with children. Include traffic safety rules in the review such as stay on the sidewalk, cross the street at crosswalks, avoid walking in front of, behind or between parked cars and stop at driveways to make sure no vehicles are coming in and out.
- Never allow young children to walk through parking lots. Young kids should be carried or placed in a stroller or shopping carts. Even holding hands may not prevent a child from darting away.