Posted by: safedriver | May 20, 2010

Why back up?

There have been a few driving tragedies lately in the news. We all hear about the crashes that injure or kill drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians, but what sends a shiver through my body is when a young child is struck and killed in their own driveway by a vehicle backing up.

A few days ago, a two year old was struck by a vehicle backing out of their driveway. This has truly upset the family and my heart goes out to them. Being a father of four young kids myself, it’s a terrifying feeling when your child is put at risk with anything. We know they’re unpredictable at that young age, so what can we do as drivers to reduce their risk?

There are two things that can be done to reduce these risks. The first is to walk around the vehicle prior to entering it. This lets you know if any objects or a child is in the direct path of the vehicle. How long would it take you to walk around the vehicle? A quick glance at the tires, doors, windows, trunk, and under the front or rear of the vehicle will only take roughly 10 to 15 seconds. Any time you’ve left your vehicle unattended, you should walk around your vehicle and do a circle check. In the case of a few days ago, it could save a child’s life.

 The other problem is backing up. Even if you look out of your rear window, you’re probably not going to see a two year old, especially if they’re sitting on the driveway playing. They get engrossed with what they’re doing and won’t necessarily realize the vehicle has started. The blind area behind the vehicle is the largest area that we can’t see when we’re sitting in the driver’s seat. With most vehicles, that can be between 10 to 20 metres in length. For this reason, we need to avoid unnecessary backing. In a parking lot, look for a space that allows you to drive in and out of.

What about cameras that are placed at the rear of the vehicle and show the driver what’s behind them? They help, but aren’t accurate. They won’t show the person who is quickly moving toward the rear of the vehicle and isn’t paying attention, like a small child. As a driver, we need to use our own eyes and not rely on artificial eyes of a back up camera. You should turn around and look and not rely on the mirrors either. It’s called a rear view mirror for a reason. It too won’t see the child running from out of view toward the rear of the vehicle.

But now the question, do you back into a driveway or out of a driveway? Backing into a driveway is safer than backing out of it. As you drive past the driveway, you can check to see if it’s clear, then within seconds, you can safely back in. Leaving the driveway forward means you’re facing the direction you’re going and any movement of a child can be easily seen before putting the vehicle in motion. The blind area in front of most vehicles is any where between 3 to 5 metres, which is far less than the area to the rear of the vehicle.

We need to expect that our kids will want to come with us each time we head out in the family vehicle and will come running when they see us go to the vehicle or hear the engine start up. That’s the time to keep an eye out for them. But let’s put these safety measures in place from now, so that our future can be protected.



  1. It is estimated that in the US about 10,000-15,000 kids die each year because of parents, family members, or neighbours running over them while backing up.

    I say estimated, because accurate records are not kept because these are not considered to be ‘traffic incidents’ or ‘road incidences’ because they don’t happen on the publics spaces of our streets or roads. Therefore these events are not reported nor recorded by local police.

    Canada is just as bad, but I have bot yet heard about any estimates here.

    Cameras help; but the common sense you offer here is so much cheaper and more effective. Perhaps lessons like this should become part of the prenatal classes being offered to would-be parents.

  2. […] With the extreme heat outside, please don’t leave your kids in a parked vehicle! […]

  3. […] Fixt The Toaster contributor Scott Marshall has written more about the dangers of it here. […]

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