The Danger In Front Of You: Bigger Vehicles Create Deadly Blindspot For Kids

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — This is a story every parent needs to read and watch. There is a growing concern about blind zones and your vehicles. We usually think about the blind zones to the back of our vehicles. The zone can extend up to 50 feet. The reports of backing up and rolling over children behind cars and trucks are too numerous to count. But, it’s not the back of your vehicle that has experts so concerned now.

It’s the front.

On the Kids and Cars website, you can see the faces of lives cut short.

There’s 2-year-old Tegan, 20-months-old Tiffany. You may have heard about 3-year-old Holly. She’s is the daughter of NFL player, Todd Heap. Holly died on Easter weekend. All three of these children and many more were run over in driveways by a parent who never saw them.

Janette Fennell runs Kids and Cars, an organization that tracks front-over accidents — that’s where a child is hit by a driver pulling forward. She says, “It’s something that happens in an instant.”

Fennell says the number of front-over deaths is going up and an alarming rate.

“People don’t know. They are not educated about the big blind zone in front of their vehicles and everyone thinks that when we look out the windshield we can see everything. But nothing can be further from the truth.”

From 1996 to the year 2000, there were 24 recorded front-over fatalities. But, that number jumped to 358 between 2006 and 2010. One reason: The popularity of bigger vehicles. 80-percent of front-over accidents involve SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks. The blind zone in front of those vehicles can be up to 8 feet. Fennell understands the rate jump.

“You can’t avoid hitting something you can’t see,” he said.

Mindy Tang is a mother of two who is very happy to play with her youngster in front of their home.

Reporter Angela Greenwood and her photographer, Peter Roney, asked Mindy to help test the blind zone in front of her minivan. They put her 4-year-old son Mason in the blind zone in front of her bumper and asked Mindy to sit in her driver’s seat.

Angela Greenwood asked, “Mindy, can you see anything?”

Mindy: “No.”

Using a tape measure, they moved Mason out 12 inches away from the front bumper.

Angela: “How about here?” Mindy: “Top of his head.”

Angela: ’ You can see the top of his head here?”

Mindy: “Yeah.” Angela: “So you would know he’s here at this distance. Barely?” Mindy: “Barely, yeah.”

We moved him back to 3 feet.

Angela: “Alright, at 3 feet, what can you see now?” Mindy: “Top of his head, just his hair.”

Then 6 feet.

Angela: “Can you see Mason at all from here?” Mindy: “Half the body.”

We moved Mason back, and back, and back. But it wasn’t until we got to 14 feet that Mindy could see Mason’s entire body. Seeing it with her own eyes was definitely an eye opener.

Mindy sat behind the steering wheel, shaking her head. “That’s scary, As a mom, that’s really scary.”

Most front-over accidents happen in driveways when someone goes to move a vehicle. Most of the accident victims are toddlers, predominantly children 12 to 23 months old. And, in 70 percent of these accidents, it’s a parent or close relative behind the wheel.

It’s a preventable accident that can devastate a family.

“Just think of a child dying and you are the one responsible,” Fennell says. “It doesn’t get worse than that.”

The National Highway Transportation Safety Association will require automatic braking sensors on vehicles, starting in 2018, in order to get NHTSA’s 5-star safety rating. That rating is coveted by car manufacturers because parents often rely on it when deciding what to purchase.

A number of carmakers, including BMW, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo, are voluntarily working with NHTSA to include Front Collision Warning (FCW) systems in some 2016 models, more 2017 models and even more 2018 models.

Each manufacturer calls its Front Collision Warning programs something different. Consumers need to ask auto dealerships specific questions about whether the automaker’s FCW has pedestrian detection. Some systems can detect pedestrians and some can’t.

Experts say some do a good job detecting a pedestrian until the driver overrides the system and brakes the vehicle on his or her own. An auto reviewer wrote that people’s reaction times are often not as effective as the FCW systems, and says there will be a learning curve for motorists to figure out when to let the car do the braking to prevent a front-over accident.

Consumer Reports has a long list that lets people figure out whether a vehicle has FCW as standard equipment now or offers it as an option. It also lets readers know what’s planned for upcoming models and indicates whether vehicles have blind spot warning and other safety features.

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