Sunday, June 7, 2009

Automobile Blind Zones: Checking Your Mirrors Is Not Enough

Every month or so, I see a story on the Atlanta area news in which a driver backs up and runs over a child. Usually, the child is killed.

I have a friend who is an insurance agent in Michigan. Back in the mid-80s, he was leaving the home of a client and backed over the client’s toddler, killing him. That incident, although a tragic accident, changed my friend for life. Can you imagine the weight of guilt a driver must feel after such an incident?

According to the auto safety advocacy group “Kids and Cars,” in 2008:

• There were 687 incidents in the US involving an unattended child and a motor vehicle
• 954 children were involved
• 204 died as a result of their injuries
• 44% of those fatalities were due to children being backed over by a vehicle
• Most backover incidents occur in home driveways and parking lots

Many drivers are unaware of the size of the blind zone behind their vehicle. Generally speaking, the wider, longer and taller the vehicle, the bigger the blind zone behind it. In addition, short drivers have a bigger blind zone. Blind zones can be eight feet wide and up to 50 feet long, and that’s just in passenger vehicles.

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are very safe for the occupants, as they are heavier, taller and stronger. But those very characteristics create a big rearward blind zone.

There is a new law on the Federal books, signed by George Bush, that mandates automakers compliance with rearward visibility. The automakers will use a mix of larger rear and side mirrors, larger rear windows, backup cameras and sensors. The law allows automakers until 2015 to comply, but compliance will likely occur sooner, since consumers want the upgrades today.

Here are 5 tips to help prevent backover incidents:

1. Before getting into your vehicle, walk all the way around it.
2. Know where the children are, and back out slowly. Parents or a close relative account for over 70% of backovers.
3. Trim landscaping and shrubbery so you and pedestrians have a clear view of your driveway.
4. Teach your own children that parked vehicles might move, and the driver might not see them.
5. Install rearview cameras, collision sensors or additional mirrors to your vehicle.

Don’t be like my Michigan friend. Take extra precautions and save lives.

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