Kids are injured and killed by the tens of thousands in traffic accidents that involve moving vehicles. But children are also vulnerable to non-traffic accidents, which occur when a child is in or around a motor vehicle that is not moving on a road. A 25-year study (1990 to 2014) in the U.S. tracked the numbers of injuries and deaths suffered by children 14 and younger, using a variety of sources. Over the time period, at least 11,759 incidents resulted in 3,396 non-traffic fatalities, with the median age of the child only 3.7 years. The largest number of fatalities were caused by backovers: 2,251 kids died simply because someone didn’t see them before they backed up their vehicle.
The Major Threats to Children
It’s a rule of thumb that, the younger the child, the greater the risk of injury and death from non-traffic accidents. Very young kids do not understand the full consequences of their actions (such as play-acting at driving), nor do they realize that others cannot see them when they are standing behind or in front of a vehicle. Several types of non-traffic dangers can arise, even when people believe they are taking proper care:
- Backovers and frontovers (the same as backovers, only driving forward) are the most frequent causes of non-traffic fatalities among children. Kids who are old enough to walk, but too short to be seen by a driver, are the most vulnerable to such tragedies.
Large vehicles (trucks, SUVs, and vans) account for 60 percent of backovers and 80 percent of frontovers. While all vehicles have blind spots, the larger the vehicle—and the shorter the driver—the bigger the blind spots are. Combined, backovers and frontovers were responsible for 64 percent of non-traffic deaths among kids 14 and under during the time period from 2013 through 2017.
- Heat stroke has killed children left in vehicles when the temperature outside was as low as 60 degrees. Sometimes parents, especially new parents of infants, are so tired and stressed that they operate on autopilot, forgetting about the sleeping baby in the back seat. From 2013 through 2017, one-fifth of non-traffic fatalities among kids 14 and younger took place in a parked vehicle because of heat stroke.
- Vehicles unintentionally set in motion kill children. Kids alone in a car can get bored, start playing, and knock a car into gear or release a parking brake. Also, if your keys are left within reach of your kids, they can enter the vehicle by themselves and spark a tragedy. From 2013 through 2017, about 4 percent of children died in non-traffic fatalities because of vehicles set in motion unintentionally.
- Unintentional or underage drivers of the family car want to be “just like Mommy (or Daddy).” It’s on record that children as young as four years old have tried to drive a car. Kids naturally want to copy their parents, but when they do, a great number of them die in accidents. From 2013 through 2017, about 4 percent of children died in non-traffic fatalities caused by underage or unintentional drivers.
- A number of other situations can be responsible for non-traffic fatalities: falls off and out of vehicles, power window accidents, trunk entrapments, fires in vehicles, carbon monoxide poisoning, and even abductions that occur when the vehicle is stolen with the child in the car. Falls accounted for 2 percent of non-traffic deaths among kids, while all other reasons added up to 6 percent of such fatalities from 2013 through 2017.
How to Avoid Heartbreak
Kids and cars can be a deadly combination. It’s important to keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Always make sure you know where any children are before you move a vehicle.
- Learn about blind zones. They can be up to 25 feet long.
- If your vehicle is older than the 2010 model year, it’s likely to lack a brake transmission system interlock (BTSI), which prevents rollaway vehicles. You can find out for yourself whether BTSI is installed on your car.
- Don’t leave your car keys around for children to take.
- If you are the parent of a young child, especially if you are a new parent, realize that your brain’s “autopilot” will take over when you are tired, distracted, or stressed. Always double-check to ensure that your child is not still in the car seat.
Our littlest ones rely on us to keep them safe, but when another person’s acts are reckless or negligent, catastrophe can occur. If such a situation should happen to your child, getting the advice of a skilled and trusted attorney makes sense. While monetary damages cannot make a person whole again, any negligent parties should be the ones to bear the financial burdens brought about by their irresponsible actions.
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Has your child been injured in a motor vehicle incident? Do you suspect that negligence by the other party was involved? The car accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm have represented injured South Carolinians in accident and personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a vehicular crash or other situation where someone else was at fault, South Carolina law entitles you to hold that party legally responsible for your medical expenses as well as any lost wages and other financial losses. You may also seek compensation for pain and suffering or loss of comfort, care and companionship of a loved one. The deadline for filing a claim is already running, so call the Louthian Law Firm for help today. If you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.