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School is out for summer and so are the kids – they are out there walking and biking and driver’s need to be very aware – especially when backing out.

What is a backover crash?

A backover crash occurs when a vehicle backs into a person such as a pedestrian or bicyclist, often when exiting a driveway or parking spot. These crashes typically are at low speeds. Crashes that involve multiple vehicles or vehicles that back into objects aren't considered backover crashes.

How widespread is the backover problem?

Government databases generally record only crashes on public roads, but most backover crashes occur in driveways and parking lots. Until recently no federal data system collected information on all backover crashes in the United States. An overall picture could be gleaned from a review of crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), hospital emergency department records, death certificates, and media sources. Because these sources may not capture all of the deaths and injuries, Congress directed NHTSA to develop a database of injuries and deaths in non-traffic events involving motor vehicles.

In 2009, NHTSA launched the Not-in-Traffic Surveillance (NiTS) crash database of non-traffic events resulting in injuries and deaths, which can be used to calculate a national annual estimate. Based on 2007-2011 NiTs data and data about on road crashes, NHTSA estimates that 267 deaths and about 15,000 injuries occur annually in backover crashes.  

Who is most likely to be injured or killed in a backover crash?

Young children and older people are most likely to be killed in a backover crash. Based on 2007-2011 crash data, 84 of the estimated 267 annual deaths in backover crashes in the United States were children younger than 5, and 70 deaths were people 70 and older. A Canadian study of backover collisions involving children younger than 13 and occurring between 1993 and 2004 found that 52 percent of the children were younger than 5. An Australian review of deaths of children younger than five in low-speed vehicle run-over crashes, including backovers, found that more than 80 percent were children younger than three.

According to a systematic review of international studies of low-speed vehicle incidents involving children, boy are more likely than girls to be injured or killed in backover crashes. An Australian study of child pedestrian backover collisions occurring between 1999 and 2009 found that males were involved in two-thirds of backover crashes that resulted in injuries and nearly three-quarters of backover crashes that resulted in fatalities.

Where do most backovers occur and who is the typical driver?

Most backover incidents don't happen on public roads. NHTSA estimates that 39 percent of backover fatalities occur in residential spaces such as driveways and the parking lots of apartment and townhouse complexes. Nonresidential parking lots account for only 17 percent of backover fatalities, but 52 percent of backover injuries. 

Three Australian studies have looked at the circumstances surrounding the deaths of children in low-speed run-over crashes, including cases in which the vehicles were moving forward as well as reversing. A study of deaths of children younger than 5 in 2000-10 found that 37 percent of the deaths occurred in residential driveways and 11 percent occurred on public roads. A review of child deaths in driveway crashes in 1996-98 showed 86 percent of the drivers were members of the struck child's family or family friends. A study in Queensland found that parents were driving in 11 of the 15 low-speed run-over fatalities of children that occurred in the state in 2004-08.

What types of vehicles are most often involved?

An analysis of driveway backovers involving children in Utah in 1998-2003 found that children were more likely to be injured by a pickup truck, minivan or SUV than a car, relative to the number of registered vehicles of each type, although the difference between SUVs and cars was not significant. Larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks typically have bigger blind zones than cars, in large part because they sit higher off the ground, making it more difficult for drivers to see children and smaller objects near the rear of the vehicle.  Consumer Reports measures distances behind the rear of a vehicle that a driver cannot see and has found that a 5-foot-8-inch-tall driver in an average midsize SUV can see up to 18 feet behind the vehicle, compared with 13 feet for an average midsize sedan. NHTSA measurements of rear visibility also have found that blind zones for shorter drivers are typically much bigger.

What technologies are available for detecting people behind a vehicle?

Of the currently available technologies, rearview video cameras hold the most promise for reducing backover crashes involving passenger vehicles and will essentially be required on all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by May 2018. While not specifically requiring cameras, NHTSA has mandated that all light vehicles meet certain rear visibility requirements that currently can only be met by the use of rearview video cameras. The 2002 Infiniti Q45 was the first vehicle to be equipped with a rearview camera. Less than 5 percent of vehicle models for 2005 offered rearview cameras compared with 85 percent for 2014 models.

Another potential avenue for reducing backing crashes is to have vehicles brake automatically when the threat of a collision is detected. Automatic rear braking systems might be as effective, or more effective at reducing the risk of backover crashes than cameras or sensors, which require the driver to react appropriately.

Other types of parking aids that rely on radar or ultrasonic sensors have also been studied for their ability to prevent backovers but are considered less reliable for this purpose. These systems produce audible or visual signals to warn a driver if an object is detected behind a reversing vehicle. The signals may intensify as the distance between the vehicle and the object or person narrows. A NHTSA evaluation conducted in 2006 found that eight sensor-based systems could detect a moving adult when the vehicle was stationary, but all of them performed inconsistently and had areas where children weren't detected. Some newer systems combine cameras with radar or ultrasound sensors.

An Institute study measured the extent to which cameras and sensors improved rear visibility and reduced blind zones for an object with the height of an average 12-15-month-old child in 21 vehicles. Rearview cameras reduced the blind zone by about 90 percent on average. Parking sensors also reduced blind zones, but not as much. In the eight vehicles that had both technologies, the parking sensors had a small added benefit of 2-3 percentage points beyond the reductions provided by the cameras alone.

In many vehicles the rear blind zones could be reduced through better vehicle designs that increase the directly viewable area. The Institute supported the rearview camera requirement but also requested that NHTSA consider the feasibility of regulating the size and position of the directly viewable areas behind vehicles in a separate rulemaking action.

Beyond passenger vehicles, many large trucks are equipped with alarms to alert pedestrians when these vehicles are backing up. All construction vehicles manufactured since 1971 have been required to have back-up alarms.

Will requiring rearview cameras eliminate backover crashes?

No. NHTSA estimates that 58 to 69 deaths will be prevented each year once every vehicle under 10,000 pounds on the road is equipped with a rear visibility system meeting the requirements.  An Institute study examined the effectiveness of rearview cameras, sensor systems, the two combined, and neither at preventing collisions with a stationary or moving toddler-size object in the path of a reversing vehicle. The object was the size of an average 12-15-month-old child. When it was stationary, the camera alone prevented the most collisions, while the sensor system alone was the least effective. None of the technologies provided a benefit when the object was moving compared to drivers using their mirrors and/or looking over their shoulders.

The actual effectiveness of cameras depends on how drivers use them in the real world. In the Institute study, shade from a tree hampered detection of the stationary object, and some participants hit it even when they looked at the camera display. Drivers also looked at the camera less when they had both a camera and a sensor system. A review of relevant research indicated that factors such as prior experience with rearview cameras, expectations regarding the likelihood of an obstacle during backing, and the timing of glances at the camera display influence the use and benefits of these systems.

What else can be done to prevent backover crashes?

Technology may never be 100 percent effective so drivers will always need to be vigilant. The national "Spot the Tot" campaign, developed by Safe Kids Utah, encourages drivers to walk completely around a vehicle before getting in and to roll down windows to hear what is happening near the vehicle before backing. It also suggests teaching children to move away from a vehicle when started and to have them stand in full view of the driver when backing. An Australian review of crashes in which children were run over at low speeds found that more than three-quarters of drivers were unaware that a child was in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle at the time the crash occurred.

Separating children's play areas from driveways also may help. A study in New Zealand in the 1990s found that children in homes without a fence separating the driveway from the play area were 3½ times more likely to be killed or injured in a driveway crash. 

Information provided by: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Posted 9:00 AM  View Comments

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