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Driveway dangers and distractions

When it comes to driveways, thousands of children are killed or seriously injured because a driver backing up or moving forward very slowly didn't see them. Back-over and front-over incidents typically occur in parking lots or residential driveways. We spoke to a child safety expert to find out what everyone needs to know to help prevent these tragedies.

Every day, many of us climb behind the wheel. It's so routine, we don't give it our full attention. As we start the car, we...

  • Talk on our cell phone
  • Drink our coffee
  • Put on makeup
  • Tune in the stereo

Then we put the car in gear—and that's when lives can change forever.

"We see more than 250 fatalities a year from children around vehicles they've either been backed over or driven over," says Wes Bender.

Bender is a safety expert with Safe Kids Worldwide. He's seen first-hand what a family goes through when, in an instant, driver distraction turns to devastation.

"Those families will tell you, and they told me, that if they had just taken an extra moment to just think about what was going on, what was happening, keep a closer supervision on the child, that it wouldn't have ever happened," says Bender.

Bender says people take driving for granted and don't pay enough attention.

"Make sure you're distraction-free," says Bender. "Don't be talking, don't be wrapping up a phone call and putting the car in gear and go."

And for Bender, stopping these driveway tragedies begins before you even step out the door.

"If you have children in the house, make sure they're still in the house with the other parent. Let the other parent or caregiver know that you're leaving and that the children are in their care," says Bender. 

But there's another critical step before you ever get into your car, and that's a walk-around.

"So it only takes a few seconds to walk around the vehicle; you want to check for toys, pets, children, see if there's anything around the area," says Bender. "Take a quick look down underneath the vehicle, bend down, make sure there's nothing underneath, all the way around the vehicle."

Bender says checking your mirrors is important, but even they don't show everything—especially when it comes to small children. Vans and SUVs can make seeing them in mirrors even harder because the blind spot ranges are bigger.

In addition to the blind spot up front, we also have a lot of area around the side here that we have to be concerned about. If a child should run up next to vehicle right here, they're totally invisible to the driver.

But the biggest blind spot is right behind you.

"What this shows is the distance objects can be, how far objects can be from the vehicle and still not be seen," says Bender. "You can see the tricycle here, which is almost a little more than two feet high, it's at 12 feet, not visible to the driver. And we've got toddlers at 14, 16 feet that can't be seen in any of the rearview mirrors by the driver in this situation."

Once you think the path is clear and you're backing up, Bender says remember that the situation could quickly change at the end of the driveway.

"As they back across that sidewalk, think -- is there anything coming across that sidewalk? Are there children in either direction? Be aware of the neighborhood," says Bender. "Do you have neighbors who have children that frequently go up and down your sidewalk?"

And while more and more cars are equipped with backup cameras, even their view can have limitations.

"Backup cameras are good to have and you should always use them," says Bender. "Don't ever rely solely on them. This vehicle has a backup camera, and this truck right here, even though the backup camera is on, this is not visible to the driver in that camera, it's too far underneath. You could see a small child could be right here and not visible.

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