How to Become a Safer Driver

Driveway Safety

Heed Driveway Dangers

It's called "bye-bye" syndrome: Mommy or Daddy walks out of the house and climbs into the car, assuming their toddler is safe inside. Except this time, their little one figures out how to open that front door and runs out to catch Mommy or Daddy, who is unknowingly pulling out of the driveway. Each year at least 100 young children die under the wheels of a car in just this way, according to Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars, which tracks nontraffic auto-related deaths and injuries.

Know where your kids are. Make children move away from your vehicle to a place where they are in full view before moving the car, and know that another adult is properly supervising them. If you are the only adult, and you must move your car from the driveway to the street, buckle the kids into their car seats and move the car with them inside.

Treat driveways like highways. Ideally, make the driveway off-limits as a play area. If that's not possible, place a cone or "children at play" banner at the front of the driveway while it's in use to warn drivers who may try to pull in. When play is over, remove all toys from the driveway so children aren't tempted to run out and get them. Keep unoccupied cars locked at all times, with the emergency brake on. Each year, children playing in and around cars die when they become trapped in the trunk, are asphyxiated by automatic windows, or get caught under the wheels of a vehicle that's been accidentally knocked into gear. "Parents might think it's cute when kids pretend to drive in a parked car, but it sends the wrong message. Teach children early on that cars are not for playing, whether Mommy is there or not," says Fennell.

Beware of your blind zone. "The longer and higher your vehicle is, the more difficult it is to see a child or anything else that's on the ground behind -- or even in front -- of you," says Fennell. Before you go anywhere, walk around your car once to make sure the path is clear. Also consider installing some kind of safety device that can help eliminate blind zones: The most effective options are rear-mounted video cameras that show the driver what is directly behind the car. Less pricey, though not as effective, are backup sensors, which beep when you come close to an obstacle behind the car. Least costly and quite effective, according to Consumer Reports, are special rearview safety lenses -- but they're only effective if the rear glass is completely vertical, as it is on several minivans and SUVs. Visit rearlens.com for more info.

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