Blind Spots Cause Backover Dangers

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February 9, 2006
It can take just a second, but it’s something that would haunt you for your life. We’re talking about backover accidents. Those accidents where a child is run over, often times in their own driveway. It happened to one local family. They know the dangers all too well.

“It was my dad’s birthday, we were over there cooking out, all the kids were over there playing,” said Renee Anstett.

Among the children playing in the yard was Renee’s 4-year-old daughter, Whitney.

“We had just told the kids not to be behind the cars because someone might not see them,” Renee said.

No one could foresee what would happen next.

Whitney was playing with a ball and it rolled underneath her uncle’s car. The next thing anyone knew, the Dodge Neon was rolling over little Whitney’s body, not once but twice.

“When he backed over her, she rolled with it. When he stopped, he stopped on her heart, which caused her heart to stop. She had blood coming out her eyes, and her ears. Then he put the car in drive and rolled across the top of her head,” Renee said.

Incredibly, miraculously, inexplicably, the little girl survived.

“Lucky, very very lucky,” Renee said.

Whitney doesn’t remember much about that day, though she does remember where she ended up, the hospital.

Whitney spent nine days in intensive care with a leg broken in four places and a broken collarbone. But now, the only reminders of what happened are the scars running the length of her leg. Though her mother reminds her every day of the danger of being near cars.

“Look, always look, know your surroundings. I still tell her all the time, don’t play behind cars, just because you see them doesn’t mean they see you,” Renee said.

Which brings us to the fact that drivers cannot see everything behind them, much less 4-year-old children. We went to Open Door Preschool to see just how big the blind spot is in some of today’s most popular family vehicles, the SUV.

We asked Dorinda Shapiro to sit in her GMC Yukon while we lined up children right behind her. She couldn’t see anything in the rearview mirror. But what was really there was an entire class full of children, 16 of them, hidden in Dorinda’s blind spot, a full 17 feet behind her rear bumper.

“I was very surprised there was such a distance before I could see the children,” Dorinda said.

Even more surprising? A smaller vehicle, this Toyota Rav 4, had an even bigger blind spot. Could Kim Beilman see the children behind her?

“Not at all,” Kim said.

In fact, the wheel well attached to the back of the vehicle kept Kim from seeing any child until they were a full 29 feet away.

“I was thinking oh my gosh, I can’t see over that hump in the back,” Kim said.

So how big a problem is this? In 2003, 91 children were killed in backover accidents, and nearly 3,000 were hurt. As for those backup cameras, a group called Kids and Cars has been lobbying congress to make those safety features a requirement on all cars.

All vehicles have blind spots. Click here to visit Consumer Reports where thye have a chart that shows blind spots up to 50 feet, depending on the height of the driver.