The Car Accidents You Don't Think About

The Problem: Blind Zones

car

Marko Metzinger

When Shane finally came home from the hospital, the entire neighborhood was waiting to welcome him -- including the driver of the truck who had backed over him. "He couldn't apologize enough, and he broke down in tears. He swore he'd pray for Shane every day of his life," Adair says.

The Adairs' neighbor admitted he'd been in a hurry and hadn't turned around or carefully looked in his rearview mirror behind his truck when he pulled out that day. But based on where Shane was found, police could tell that he was out of the driver's line of sight. Back-overs account for 42 percent of nontraffic fatalities each year, and front-overs make up another 22 percent, according to KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent such injuries to children.

Blind zones are the cause of these accidents. All vehicles have areas in the front and back that you can't see when you're in the driver's seat. (In front, the area is 6-8 feet long and as wide as the car. Behind the vehicle, it's 7-8 feet wide and between 20 and 40 feet long.) The bigger the car and the higher off the ground the driver sits, the bigger the blind zone in front of the vehicle.

Prevent an accident: For one thing, always walk around your vehicle before you drive, though kids can still dart behind the car once you start moving. Many new vehicles come equipped with audio sensors that beep with increasing frequency as you back toward an object, but experts say that these systems alone don't provide enough information. "The ideal setup is an audio sensor and a camera with a wide-angle rear view that automatically activates as you shift into reverse and displays the view in the dashboard," says Don Mays, senior director for product safety for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. Those are built in (or options) in many new cars, but you can also retrofit your older car with an audio backup sensor kit (prices range from $50 to $250) and a backup video system (which starts at less than $100 for the camera and dashboard monitor and can cost more than $1,000 for a complete video navigation system). You can buy these and have them installed at an electronics store or at your car dealer, or you can install them yourself.

Although technology is available to help stop accidents, it only goes so far in protecting our kids. "Teach your children that even parked cars may suddenly move, and that cars aren't toys," says Parents adviser Martin Eichelberger, M.D., founder of Safe Kids Worldwide, in Washington, D.C. "Reminding kids about the dangers of cars really can help to save their lives."

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