With the holidays here, many children and teenagers will likely soon be riding through neighborhoods on new bicycles, riding toys, scooters, roller skates and rollerblades. The Automobile Club of Southern California reminds drivers and parents to keep young riders safe while enjoying their new gifts.
“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 spokesperson Doug Shupe. “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.”
Thousands of children are injured or killed each year in the U.S. because a driver simply didn’t see them while moving forward. These incidents often occur at lower speeds in driveways and parking lots. Children under the age of six are most at risk as they can become excited, unpredictable and likely do not understand the inherent danger of a moving vehicle. Most of the time drivers involved in frontover incidents are a parent or close relative of the victim.
Each year, approximately 366 deaths and 15,000 injuries are attributed to frontover incidents according to government data. Larger vehicles such as trucks, vans and SUVs are involved in approximately 75% of these types of incidents.
Each year nearly 200 children are killed in the U.S. and more than 15,000 are injured after being involved in a backover incident, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA. 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.
Children who are one-year old (12-23 months) are most commonly the victims of backover incidents according to KidsandCars.org, a non-profit child safety organization. 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. Each week, 50 children are backed over in the U.S. resulting in two deaths and 48 hospital emergency room visits.
Vehicle Technology and Safety Systems
Drivers are recognizing the value in having vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), like blind spot monitoring (BSM), forward collision warning (FCW) and lane keeping assist (LKA). While many of these technologies are rapidly being offered in newer vehicles, many drivers are unaware of the safety limitations of the systems in their vehicles. Lack of understanding or confusion about the proper function of these ADAS technologies can lead to misuse or overreliance on the technology, which could result in a deadly crash.
AAA testing of vehicle safety systems in both closed-course and real-world settings show that performance is greatly impacted by driving scenarios, road conditions and vehicle design, including failing to stop for pedestrians in common scenarios like crossing in front of a vehicle, a child darting out between two parked vehicles, or walking at night. AAA’s research continues to show that vehicle safety system performance varies widely, reinforcing that they are not a replacement for a fully engaged driver.
It’s essential for drivers to be familiar with how their system operates. The Auto Club urges drivers to take time to read the vehicle owner’s manual to learn when, where and how to use them. The vehicle owner’s manual or online materials provided by the automaker are the best resource for understanding the ins and outs of an individual vehicle’s safety system. It will give clear guidance on when and where the system operates best, as well as how to use it properly.
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 the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center 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.
- Make sure your child has a helmet and ensure it’s been properly fitted according to the manufacturer’s instructions before riding bicycles or any ride on toy.
- 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.