We recently posted a guest blog, Drive, Park, and Enjoy Yourself Safely This Holiday Season, with all kinds of tips on driving and parking safety during this rushed holiday season. One of our readers added a great idea to the issue of accidents caused when reversing your automobile. She commented: “reversing is a tricky and dangerous driving activity to both yourself and pedestrians. Get your reversing done while you have a clear view of the traffic, pedestrians and general area, while your mind is focused on driving. Also, when you get in your car after shopping, you may not be totally focused on the hazards of the activity of backing out, nor what is going on around you, and that this is the worst possible time to be reversing.” If there’s the chance that you can find a space to park that you can back into, do that, in order to make a safe exit from the parking lot when you are ready to leave.
According to reports from the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, backup accidents by passenger vehicles result in 228 deaths and 17,000 injuries annually. They most often occur in residential driveways and parking lots, and involve SUV’s or small trucks. Sadly, many victims are children under age 5, and the driver was a family member or someone who knows the family. The University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies states “all backing accidents are preventable. The key is to plan ahead to avoid backing in the first place.” Consumer Reports Magazine suggests that SUV’s, pickups and minivans are longer and taller and that their blind zones extend as much as 50’ from the rear bumper, which contributes to poor visibility.
Here are some reasons for collision failures related to backing operations:
- Failure to look before backing;
- Failure to conduct a walk-around;
- Failure to check mirrors often;
- Failure to check blind spots;
- Backing at an unsafe speed.
Prevention organizations urge parents to use common sense and take safety measures such as installing cross view mirrors, audible collision detectors, rear view video camera, and/or some kind of reverse backup sensors. Safer backing up is done when the driver turns completely around and looks out of the rear window of the car, rather than relying on mirrors. By doing this, a wider field of vision and better control of the vehicle is provided. If you have a passenger, ask him/her to help you watch for objects or persons.
The Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007 requires the safety agency (NHTSA) to adopt a safety regulation that improves rearward visibility when a vehicle is in reverse. NHTSA has proposed that all passenger vehicles be equipped with back-up cameras. Based on the assumption that there are 16.6 million new vehicles sold annually, the cost would be $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion each year to equip them. This proposal would require automakers to have 10% of new vehicles with these systems by 2012; 40% by September, 2013, and 100% by September, 2014. The estimated cost passed on to consumers on purchasing new cars would be around $159 to $203 – a small investment for added safety. Costs to consumers who already have some type of backup camera that could be adapted to meet new standards would be less.
There are many older cars out there that won’t have any of these safety features, with the exception of seat belts, and those drivers should be vigilant to watch for pedestrians and other cars when they are backing out. (A while back, I almost got mowed down by a lady as she was backing out. Luckily, I saw her, and thought she saw me, but she backed out, forged ahead and never looked back. It could have been very bad for me – I have learned to stay clear of parked cars.) This is a little wake-up call for pedestrians to watch, too. There are many automobiles that already have back-up cameras, or sensors that warn drivers when a person or object is behind them. (My car beeps like crazy, for which I am thankful.)
So, until we have cars that do everything but drive themselves, keep all these safety suggestions in mind. Think “forward” and try to avoid backing whenever possible. Plan ahead to reduce backing operations. We appreciate our fellow bloggers and readers for comments that help us all stay focused on safety.