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Turning Back the Clock on Backover Accidents

In a bizarre accident caused by what appears to be a heated confrontation between a pedestrian and an allegedly intoxicated motorist, Florida racked up its latest backover accident victim. As the name implies, backovers — or backing crashes — occur when drivers put their vehicles in reverse, colliding with and running over people and property in their path. Unlike the majority of backovers, which involve no malice on the driver’s part, it appears that the driver in this latest backover actually wanted to run over his victim, and proceeded to do so repeatedly.

Tiny victims

Sadly, children are frequently the victims of backovers. Each week, at least 50 children are backed over in the United States, with two of these accidents on average resulting in fatalities. The median age of child backover victims is between 12 and 23 months. Perhaps even more tragically, in 70 percent of backovers involving children, close relatives or parents are driving the vehicle.

Blind zones, not blind spots

Over 60 percent of vehicles involved in backovers are large vehicles, such as SUVs, trucks and vans. The reason for this may be connected to a semantic issue that is creating deadly confusion on the roads. Specifically, many drivers confuse the term blind spot, which is limited to the area beside a vehicle that is problematic only when changing lanes, with other areas around the car that cannot be seen, including large swathes that are obscured when drivers back up.

Since the word “spot” minimizes the tremendous and ever-present danger of backing over pedestrians, safety advocates prefer to refer to the area behind the vehicle as the “blind zone.” They feel this term more accurately describes the area, which on average measures from 140 to 240 square feet. Since SUVs, trucks and vans have larger blind zones than smaller cars, they’re more likely to be involved in backovers. Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have already adopted this terminology.

Making the blind zone safer

While backovers are pervasive, drivers can take a few simple steps to greatly reduce the risk of their occurrence. These precautionary measures include:

  • Checking the area behind and around the vehicle every time a vehicle is put in reverse
  • Identifying the location of all children in the area
  • Installing safety equipment, such as collision detectors with audible alerts, rearview video cameras and cross-view mirrors
  • Instructing children about the fact that even parked vehicles may move, and that since drivers in parked vehicles often cannot see them, it is imperative to stay far away from them

In cases in which an outside party’s negligence is an issue, it’s essential that those affected by a backover injury immediately reach out to legal counsel.

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