Backover accidents remain a prevalent and horrific problem in the United States. You glance down to look for your coffee mug, and a small child sneaks by the rear bumper of your vehicle. Vehicles have substantially grown in size and heft, especially SUVs. According to Kids and Cars, more than 1,500 children have died of backovers.
Jennifer and Chad Petersen know well the heartache of these statistics. Their daughter, Natalie, died in a backover accident at their home in 2014, just a few weeks shy of her third birthday, as the family was preparing to go on a trip to Disneyland.
According to Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, Natalie was wearing her helmet and riding her little bike when she was called into the house to get ready. She zipped into the garage, but then went out of her mother’s view. Her dad got in his truck, started backing up, and accidentally struck Natalie. The child never appeared in the truck’s backup cameras because she was so small and close to the bumper.
“Natalie was special from the moment she was born,” Chad Petersen said. “We’re sharing her story to help others. It keeps her name spoken, and gives us a sense of purpose to do things that are helpful in her name.”
What Can Technology Do?
It is good that new vehicles are mandated to have a manufacturer-installed back-up camera. But the resolution may not be perfect. In many instances, snow or rain obscures the camera systems, diminishing their usefulness or rendering them useless. However, aftermarket backup sensors can be added to protect children. When used in conjunction with a camera system, this can protect our most precious cargo if they get out of the cargo hold. The hospital that tried to treat Natalie has created the Spot the Tot program to make sure drivers pay attention, especially in neighborhoods where young children play.
Michelle Jamison, community health program manager at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, said, “Children are unpredictable. They often have poor judgement and little understanding of danger and no impulse control. They don’t recognize boundaries such as the yard, street, driveway, sidewalk or parking lot. That’s why it’s especially important that drivers learn how to Spot the Tot to prevent accidental backovers and frontovers.”
Emergency room physician Nate Holman added, “Injury prevention is something I’m passionate about as an emergency room doctor. I’m also passionate about it as a father. My daughter was injured a few years ago when she was backed over in a driveway by a relative. She survived and is doing very well, but the accident has been tremendously difficult for the driver. We can all work together as a community to Spot the Tot and prevent accidental injuries.”
Tips to Spot the Tot
When combined with technology, the Spot the Tot campaign offers some commonsense strategies to reduce backover and frontover deaths. They include walking around the vehicle before you get in; turning off distractions, including your phone, and turning down the radio volume; rolling down the windows to listen for kids; and, if you see kids, making sure that an adult stays with them before you start to back up. As you put the vehicle into gear, the camera system will turn on to give you a vantage point to check to see that everything is clear.
You can listen for the audible beeps of the backup detector to give you additional confidence that there are no obstacles, and you’re good to go. If your older vehicle does not feature a backup camera and backup detection, your local VZAN retailer can help you with solutions that can integrate both into your vehicle.
Take a Quick Walk and Look
Even with the latest technology, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests everyone take a quick walk around their vehicle before they set off to make sure no one is playing or hiding. The combination of a camera, backup detection and human awareness can eradicate backover and frontover deaths. Using technology and human awareness is the best way to stop senseless deaths of children.