Teens and adults, by virtue of their height, strength, and general awareness, are afforded a certain amount of safety around vehicles.

Children, on the other hand, are at the mercy of a larger world. This is why they must depend on grownups to take sensible precautions regarding the most dangerous weapon anyone can own; a vehicle.

Playing It Safe

Thanks to laws mandating seat belts, child car seats, and other vehicle-type restraint laws like confining children under the age of 3 to rear vehicle seats, juvenile deaths as a result of vehicle crashes have been declining steadily since 1975.

Not only are moving-vehicle fatalities down, but child pedestrian deaths are also down, by 90 percent on a per capita basis. From a high of 1,632 in 1975, these types of child fatalities have fallen to 167 in 2014, or 19 percent of total auto-related child deaths. Child bicyclist deaths are down almost as much, from 446 in 1975 to 38 in 2014.

In 2014, 69 percent of child motor vehicle crash deaths were as occupants, or passengers. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 6 percent of deaths of children younger than 1. From ages 1 to 3, the figure rose to 28 percent. Among children 4 to 8, that figure fell to 20 percent. In the 9 to 12 age group, it fell even farther, to 14 percent. Children riding bicycles accounted for 4 percent – down from 12 percent in 1975.

Even while child pedestrian auto deaths have been declining, they still represent the second-largest cause of juvenile death due to automobiles. The first cause of death remains as passengers in vehicles.

Unintentional Consequences

While reckless, angry, inconsiderate and alcohol/drug addled drivers take up the front page of news media sources for their behavior, the majority of auto-related child deaths are unintended.

The greatest tragedy is the fact that the drivers were often parents, siblings, family members, or close family friends, and simply did not see the child because of his or her smaller stature. All tricycles and most juvenile bicycles are shorter than the hood of a standard-sized SUV or pickup truck. Tricycles stand about 18 inches high. Child bikes come in 12-, 16-, and 20-inch wheel sizes, and average about 23 inches to the top of the tubular frame.

On a truck – on everything from an F-150 to a Dodge Dakota – the 36-inch bed is taller than most 3-year-olds of either sex, and a mere inch shorter than the average 4-year-old. The hood of the average SUV is about 45 inches above the ground!

Rear-View Mirrors Good, But Far From Perfect

Drivers backing up in a parking lot or in their own driveway may not see children due to the difference between the vehicle’s rear roof (or hood) height and the height of a child, even one riding a bicycle.

Rear-view mirrors were designed to solve this problem. The average rear-view mirror is about 8 inches long and 2.5 to 3 inches deep. It offers a 52-degree visual arc, but this does not entirely cover a space to the rear of a vehicle known as a “blind spot”. This is true even in a compact car.

Depend on Back-Up Warning Devices

You can swap your limited rear-view mirror with a panoramic rear view, which offers a full 180-degree field of vision, and simply clips on to the existing assembly; no tools required.

If the panoramic mirror retrofit doesn’t resolve your concern, consider installing an audio backup system, basically a beeper that sounds an alarm to warn the driver that something is behind the vehicle.

These audio alarms work well but are so annoying many drivers disable them. If that is your situation, consider going to a more high-tech system like a mini-cam that provides the driver with a view of anything behind the car, including an empty tricycle, the family cat – even a UPS delivery truck.

Backup Cameras

Child safety advocacy group KidsAndCars.org calls this device a backup camera and notes that “backup” accidents kill 2 and injure 48 children every week in the U.S. In fact, the group has confirmed back-overs as the most typical cause of injury and death in the 1-5-year-old demographic.

This is not surprising, considering that almost all these accidents take place in either the driveway of the homeowner or the parking lot of a nearby merchant, or that the average blind spot for everything from minivans to trucks is an unbelievable 37.5 feet – wider than some residential homes!

These safety cams are designed to work with any vehicle. Optional equipment on many newer cars, and part of the package on some high-end vehicles, these devices are also available as aftermarket add-ons.

Simple to install – most fit on the license plate bracket, trailer hitch or rear bumper – these devices deliver an image to a specially designed replacement rearview mirror or a flat screen monitor fastened to the inside of the sun visor. Some systems are wireless (thus inherently unreliable if the equipment is “aftermarket cheap” from overseas). If you are going for hardwired, let an expert do the work. This is brain surgery, or very close to it, and lives are at stake.

One uniquely useful aspect of this type of camera is that it will help you dock your vehicle with a trailer. And on a final note for those who enjoy factoids, the state of Delaware mandated reverse warning devices on vehicles effective January 1, 2014. Under Code Title 21 § 4319, the warning must be audible within 50 feet.  

Staff (63 Posts)