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Childhood accidents continue to be the most common cause of death in children older than 1 year of age. Until children are old enough to leave home, most accidents will occur in the vicinity of the home. One danger zone many parents don’’t think about is the driveway. It has been said that “back-over” incidents killed 91 children in 2003. The number of injuries from back-over incidents is much higher and as many as 7,000 children 14 years of age and younger were treated in the emergency room in 2003. The danger in the driveway is that once the driver is in the car, particularly SUVs, they can’’t see anything behind the vehicle, especially a small child.

Numerous attempts are being made to implement additional safety mechanisms and safety requirements for passenger vehicles. One example is power windows that automatically reverse direction when they detect an obstruction such as an arm hanging out the window.

Other safety measures being proposed include a system of notification once the ignition is turned off. The driver would be alerted as to whether or not there are any passengers left in the rear seats. Some vehicles are already equipped with a rear visibility mechanism that provides drivers with an unobstructed view around the side and back of the vehicle. This is a tremendous driving aid and hopefully will become standard in the next few years.

Until these features do become standard, there are simple steps parents can take to try to avoid back-over injuries in their driveway, schools and elsewhere.

Always walk behind your car before backing out of the driveway.

When backing out, one can honk their horn and wait a few seconds before actually putting the car in motion. When parents leave for work or to run errands, they should make sure their child doesn’t follow them for one last hug, to try to go along or to sneak up and surprise them. Not knowing a child is around the vehicle can be deadly.

Ideally, children should not play around parked cars and should understand that parked cars can move. Children should be made to understand that drivers cannot see behind vehicles, nor in front of them, easily for a distance of 10 feet or so.

Your vehicle should be kept locked to prevent children from inadvertently getting into the automobile.

When grandparents or other visitors are leaving and beginning to back their car out of the driveway, make sure you know where your toddlers are. Children are very prone to follow adults to the car.

Investigate the possibility of rear view cameras, mirrors or alarms which may be installed or attached to your vehicle.

A last suggestion is that play areas should never include a driveway. Children should not play there, park their bikes there, etc. If at all possible, play areas should be separated from the driveway and the street by a fence.

Back-over injuries are becoming more prevalent. Being aware of the possibility of backover injuries, especially when young children are involved and using common sense in backing your car from the garage or driveway should make the possibility of this kind of disastrous accident much less.

(Article by Dr. Betty Ann Lowe, an Arkansas pediatrician, past Medical Director of Arkansas Children’’s Hospital in Little Rock and professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

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