Blind Spots in SUVs Still Killing Kids

hummer.jpgGrowing public awareness of the danger posed to children by the huge blind spots in SUVs has led to likely passage of what is known as the Kids and Cars act in this session of Congress. But it remains unclear whether the now-weakened bill will adequately address rear-visibility issues that have led to the deaths and injuries of hundreds of children in the past few years.

MSNBC reports on the efforts of advocates to increase awareness of the problem:

How many kids can sit behind an SUV without being seen by the driver in the rearview mirrors? This is not a trick question. In fact, knowing the answer could save a child's life.

According to the consumer group Kids and Cars, as many as 62 children could be in that blind zone and you'd never know it. And that's a huge problem.

Your driveway is the last place you'd expect a child to get hit by a car. But Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Cars, says at least 100 children are killed there each year in backover accidents. Another 2,400 children are seriously injured this way each year.

The solution usually advanced for the blind backup zone is a backup camera, already available as an option in many vehicles. But the blind spots aren't just behind these behemoths -- they're in front, too:

According to Kids and Cars, 60 children were killed last year in frontover accidents. That's more than one child every week.

Many people who know about the rear blind spot back their vehicles into the driveway. They figure they'll be able to see anything in front of them as they pull forward. But backing into the driveway does not eliminate the danger. "Some of the vehicles are so large and you're so high off the ground that you can't see little ones in front of the vehicle," Fennell warns.

That's what happened to 8-year old Douglas Bransom one year ago this week....Douglas was walking home on the sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood in West Linn, Oregon. Phil Bransom thinks his son dropped a toy at the top of a neighbor's driveway and bent down to pick it up, just as the neighbor was moving his SUV forward. Douglas was hit and dragged into the street. He died at the scene.

The problem isn't confined to driveways. Just this past February in Brooklyn, four-year-old James Rice was killed by a turning Hummer as he crossed the street legally in a crosswalk with his aunt. The driver was not charged. At the wheel of a vehicle notorious even among car enthusiasts for its poor visibility (one reviewer called backing up "an act of faith"), he said he never saw the boy in front of him.

Photo: Sarah Goodyear