Child Backover Accidents: How Often They Happen & Ways to Prevent Them

Rear bumper of old truck

It seems like every few months, the news reports a heartbreaking story about a child who was run over in a driveway. Typically known as “backover” accidents, these types of stories are the reason backup cameras come standard with new vehicle models. However, there’s very little data on how often these accidents even occur or how fatal they are.

For instance, federal car accident databases don’t record accidents that occur on private property; they also don’t report accidents with no insurer involvement, medical documents, or police reports. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) typically collects data on vehicle accidents on public roadways, not in driveways or parking lots.

But 1 in 10 child pedestrian injuries occur in the driveway, and 1 in 5 of these accidents are fatal. It’s clear that we need data on how and when these accidents are happening.

So, in the early 2000s NHTSA researchers tried to get around this gap in knowledge through death certificate research. Using these documents, they were able to get a rough estimate: roughly 123 backover fatalities occur every year, 85% of which aren’t on any road.

What Kind of Injuries Do Backover Accidents Cause?

The case study of four child backover accident survivors linked above found that survivors suffered crush injuries, lung damage leading to respiratory impairment, organ lacerations, skull and femur fractures, and rib fractures. However, even this study’s authors were skeptical of its results; given that 20% of child backover injuries are fatal, they question if documenting survivable injuries tell us anything useful.

We argue that it is. Survivors’ injuries can alter their lives forever, and it’s vital for us to document those injuries and their impact. But more importantly, we need to know the stakes so we can take care to prevent child backover injuries.

Preventing Child Backover Accidents

Though backup cameras are common in recent vehicle models, older vehicles present a larger risk to children on the sidewalk or in the driveway. If you’re concerned about the risk of backover accidents, consider getting an aftermarket rearview camera. These units come in a wide range of prices, although the lower-end models will have hazier resolution as a tradeoff. With some know-how (or with an installation expert), any vehicle could theoretically become fitted with a backup camera.

Other safety measures include:

  • Fencing play areas off from the driveway
  • Keeping all play and toys in the backyard
  • Making a habit of circling the vehicle before backing out
  • Ensuring toddlers and small children are buckled before ignition

All of these safety measures come from previous backover accidents, many of them fatal. You don’t need the fanciest backup camera (though you should buy one if you can) if you adopt some simple habits and practices to keep small children from wandering into the driveway without supervision.

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