When a Shift into Reverse Kills or Maims

One hidden driving danger involves an everyday vehicle activity that we all do with our vehicles without giving it a second thought: shifting into reverse.  This issue was recently studied for the first time by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which found that in 2007 more than four people are killed every week by vehicles moving in reverse.


With a total of 221 people killed and around 14,000 injured in backup accidents that year, the NHTSA is surprised by the numbers.  In the past, organizations like Kids and Cars estimated that about 100 people were killed by backup accidents each year – a big difference from reality.


The study was prompted by legislation enacted after the tragic death of Cameron Gulbransen, a 2 year old boy accidentally killed when his father backed up over him in the family’s driveway.  Children are especially at risk in a reverse accident, with about 44 percent of non-traffic fatalities (deaths that happen in places other than on a public road, like in a driveway or parking lot) are from backup accidents.


The study may prompt lawmakers to enact guidelines for rearview visibility in cars, trucks and SUVs in an effort to cut down on the number of deaths and injuries from backup accidents.  Some vehicles, like larger SUVs, have especially poor rearview visibility, which can be mitigated with a backup camera, an option available on many of today’s newer models.  Vehicles with poor rear visibility can have aftermarket rearview cameras installed.


Another way that people can be killed or hurt when a vehicle is in reverse is in the case of an “accidental vehicle rollaway”.  In this situation, a vehicle is accidentally set in reverse, and surprises somebody outside the car, knocking them down or running them over. 


A recent Virginia Beach accident highlights the danger of this type of incident.  A 54 year old woman was killed when one of her grandchildren climbed into the front seat while she was unloading her minivan, and accidentally put the van into reverse.  An open door knocked the woman down, and she suffered a fatal head injury.


To avoid accidental vehicle rollaway accidents, the NHTSA advises:

  • Do not let children play in or around vehicles
  • Supervise children closely when they are in or around vehicles
  • Lock vehicle doors when unattended
  • Never leave keys in a vehicle
  • Always engage the emergency brake when a vehicle is parked
  • Check to see if your vehicle has a brake transmission safety interlock, a safety device that requires drivers to use the brakes before putting a vehicle in gear (which prevents children from accidentally putting a vehicle in gear)


One thing is clear: backup accidents are going to be getting a lot more scrutiny from the NHTSA and other safety organizations, a good thing for motorists and their families.


Get help after a serious vehicle accident in Virginia or North Carolina by contacting the skilled, experienced lawyers at Tavss Fletcher.  We will review your accident case for no cost or obligation and let you know if and how we can help you get your life back on track.



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