Car News

Blind Spots, Backover Dangers Gain Attention

RELATED READING
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon

author photo by Ann Job March 2008

At least once a week a child in America is run over, typically in driveways or parking lots.

Are you extra aware and alert when you're in the vicinity of a sport-utility vehicle, van or a pickup truck that's backing up?

Are you especially watchful for children when you're behind the wheel of a tall-riding vehicle—be it a van, truck or SUV—and you're backing it up?

You should be. According to Consumer Reports, the blind spot behind a tall vehicle such as a Chevrolet Avalanche truck can extend as much as 51 feet in the case of a small-stature driver about 5 feet 1 inches tall. Even for an average-sized driver, 5 feet 8 inches tall, the blind spot can extend nearly 30 feet behind the Avalanche, according to the consumer advice publication.

"No one is telling people there's a bigger blind spot in these vehicles," said Janette Fennell, founder and president of the child safety advocacy group Kids and Cars.

Pointing out her statistics showing at least one child a week in the United States is killed in a "backover" incident, Fennell urges that some kind of "backover warning and prevention device" be made mandatory on all vehicles.

Adults Can Be Hit, Too
Fennell's group only collects data on children, but she acknowledges adults also can be and are killed and injured in backovers.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 2,767 people were treated in emergency rooms from July 2000 through June 2001 because of backovers. "This is a huge problem," Fennell said. "A lot of [the problem] is due to the change in our vehicle mix" that has more people driving tall-profile vehicles, she said.

Indeed, Fennell's research indicates that "in 60 percent of the [backover] cases, it's a truck, van or SUV that's involved," Fennell said. The reduced rearward visibility is caused by the design and tall profile of SUVs, pickup trucks and even vans.

The top edge of the tailgates and liftgates in these vehicles typically sits high and so do the vehicles themselves. This means that unaware children and small-stature adults and anything not tall enough to be visible in the rear window glass might be run over as the vehicle is backing up.

Blind Spots Not New
It's important to point out that even cars have blind spots—areas right at the back of a vehicle where a driver, even making good use of the rearview mirror and side mirrors, doesn't quite get full visibility.

"There's an area under the rear bumper where we just can't see that area," said Pamela LaBuhn, product engineer at General Motors Corp.

Many consumers would likely be surprised at just how large this area is, even in a car.

According to Consumers Union, a 5-foot-1 driver of a Honda Accord can experience a blind spot that extends 17 feet behind the car. For an average-sized driver of an Accord, the blind spot is approximately 13 feet long.

This is plenty of space to obscure objects such as tricycles and other toys and worse, a toddler.

No Government Action Yet
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesman Tim Hurd acknowledged that backover cases, especially those involving injury or the death of a child, "are very sad and tragic."

Indeed, Fennell said stats show that "in over 60 percent of the cases, it's a parent or close relative who's behind the wheel."

A widely publicized example: Last year, Long Island pediatrician Dr. Greg Gulbransen fatally injured his 2-year-old son, Cameron, in the family driveway. The father had been unaware his toddler son had come out of the house and was at the driveway as Gulbransen backed up his BMW X5 SUV.

While NHTSA officials believe that the more information drivers have about their surroundings the better, the agency isn't looking to mandate reverse park assist systems that now are offered in aftermarket shops and as factory equipment on some vehicles, Hurd said.

Nor is NHTSA interested in adding outside warning beeps to every vehicle as it backs up. "That was studied a number of years ago," he said, adding the study showed a child is apt to be drawn to a beeping vehicle, rather than flee from it. In addition, he said, it's debatable how effective audible beeps would be in a parking garage where a number of vehicles are likely to be backing up at the same time.

Push Is On
Fennell isn't pushing for an audible warning outside vehicles like that found on construction and garbage trucks. She said children can confuse the beeping sound with "an ice cream truck."

She is working with the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety as well as Consumers Union in pushing for a mandate that would make standard some kind of "backover warning and prevention devices" that would alert drivers on all vehicles, including cars, by the 2007 model year.

She also wants insurers to give owners of such vehicles a credit. "The problem is only getting worse," she said.

What To Do Right Now?
Fennell's 1999 Lexus RX 300 didn't come with any backup warning system when she bought it.

So she went to aftermarket shops and had devices installed. One is a rearview video camera from auto supplier Donnelly. Another is an audio system that coaches her with verbal announcements as she backs up to tell her if she's 8 feet away or 6 feet away from an obstacle.

Consumers today can do the same thing, with prices starting under $300. For a quick review of such systems, visit the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association.

Increasing Offerings From Automakers
Consumers also can look among today's cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks to see which ones offer backup systems right at dealerships.

For example, BMW offers park distance control on even its base X5 SUV now. It operates using ultrasonic sensors in the bumpers, and alerts drivers with beeps heard inside the vehicle. It's a $700 option on the 3.0i and standard equipment on the 4.4i and top-of-the-line 4.8is.

Even entry-level SUVs, like Ford's Escape, now offer reverse sensing systems. In fact, such a system, that also uses ultrasonic sensors, is standard on the top-of-the-line Escape Limited.

Meantime, Toyota's Sienna minivan offers a backup video camera. The camera, which comes standard on vans with the navigation system, works whenever the Sienna is in reverse gear.

A video camera mounted in the tailgate automatically displays a wide-angle view of what's behind the vehicle.

The camera system also is available on the Lexus RX 330.

Meantime, on the Sienna's uplevel XLE Limited model, there's also a new park-assist system that utilizes a sonar range-finding system.

With two front sensors for drive mode and four rear sensors for reverse, the system gives audible beeps—more fast-paced as distance diminishes between the Sienna and a standing object—in order to alert drivers before they hit something.

Automaker engineers note that it's important for drivers to keep these systems—whether camera or sensors— free of dirt so they work properly.

Ann Job is a writer for T&A Ink.

© 2007 Microsoft

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Blind Spots, Backover Dangers Gain Attention - Autotrader