What is happening, why it’s happening, and what we can do about it.
When I started researching this article topic, I was looking at the amount of children that are backed over by vehicles each year. The number of this way is too high—at any number. But as I continued to research, it became clear that children are dying from cars for a lot of reasons that are just as serious and with data that are just as high.
The ways that children are dying or being in relation to cars is a long list. Just to name a few, they are: , struck a , backovers, heatstroke, front covers, strangled by a seatbelt, killed by an airbag, and much more.
I read article after article about children being hit by cars while or about children backed over by a parent in the driveway. Kids were dying of heat stroke in the car while others were strangling on seatbelts. The number of articles was disturbing.
All this disturbing information got me thinking about a few thing: What is going on that is causing so many children to die from cars? Why is it happening? And most importantly, what can we do to stop it?
What is happening?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collects massive amounts of data on incidents involving motor vehicles, , trucks, , pedestrians, and much more. According to their data sheet on children (which is from 2014, but is considered recent data), there are 61 million children in the United States, making up 19% of the total US population. Of the 32,675 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States, 1,070 were children. This number is only 3% of the entire group of traffic fatalities. It seems like a small number, but it is not. One person’s child dying is devastating. But over one thousand children gone, in one year, from a preventable cause is outrageous.
Child fatalities from motor vehicles have declined in the last 10 years or so, dropping 45%. This is obviously a good thing, but there is still more work to be done.
An estimated 167,000 children were injured in traffic crashes in the same year. These two statistics combined means that, on average, 3 children were killed and roughly 458 children were injured every day in the United States due to traffic crashes. These numbers do not take into account things like heatstroke from being left in a hot car or anything else that does not involve a collision.
To put it quite simply, children are being killed at alarming rates because of vehicle interactions. The Daytona Beach News-Journal published an article last week titled, “5 children hit by cars in Volusia County so far this school year.” This was published on September 21, 2016. The school year started less than one month ago, and this is just in one county. Of all the five incidents, no child was seriously harmed or killed. But it is still alarming. And why were these children struck? Volusia County Schools spokeswoman Nancy Wait said that in most of the incidents the motorist was to blame . This is a running theme.
Florida has the second highest child pedestrian fatality rate in the nation. In 2014, Florida had 34 child pedestrian deaths, falling just behind California who had 41.
A good majority of these accidents happen when children are going to and from school. According to AAA, one-third of all child pedestrian fatalities happened between 3pm and 7pm. This is when the most kids are walking home from school or an after school activity. This number is higher than in the morning since more children walk home from school than walk to school, perhaps since schools get out before most parents get out of work.
Why is it happening?
The answer is today, the same as it’s always been. It is partly to do with the way children act and think, and partly to do with the way adults are.
Children are carefree by nature. It’s part of what makes kids so great and being a kid even better. Because of this, they are more likely to dart into a road after a ball, cross in front a car that is going too fast, or chases their friend around in a parking lot. They just do stuff that is generally unsafe. This is not to say that any of this is at all their fault, it is just how things are.
Adults are super distracted. This, unlike the way children act, can change.
A possible scenario: On a typical Monday morning, a father is running late getting out of the house as he fights to get his kids ready, and in his spare time, himself. Now he is running late, stuck in traffic, and trying to get in his morning coffee because someone spilled a gallon of milk on the carpet this morning. He is running behind schedule, so he’s concerned about being late to work. It would be his third time late this year. Which means he may get fired or lose his promotion; he may find himself with no job and no income. If this happens, there will be no spilled milk because there will be no milk to spill. Every morning is a stressful event
Later that afternoon, things are no different.
This is not to say that adults hitting children with their cars are not really their fault. Adults do drive distracted and most of the reasons that cause them to rush are preventable.
There are more people driving distracted today, then there has ever been.
According to Distraction.gov, at any given moment during the day across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010 .
It is no surprise that children are being hit by cars.
One thing that makes children vulnerable to being hit by cars is their size. A great resource on this topic, , has entire articles on the blind zone (not blind spot) that cars have which block children from view. This is one of the reasons that parents accidently back over their own kids; something that must be in the top three worst things in the world.
What can we do about it?
For the sake of trying to solve this very preventable problem, here is a list of some tips to keep kids safe:
AAA offers helpful tips to keep children safe this school year:
Buckle Up! Parents who are driving their children around should use the proper , , or , based on the child’s age and size. The CDC recommends children should ride in the backseat until they are at least 13 years old. But a 13-year-old can be smaller than average and a 12-year-old can be larger. So a better guideline suggests that kids should be at least 4’9” tall and weigh at least 80 pounds before transitioning out of the booster and before being allowed to sit up front. The safest place for kids is properly buckled up in the middle spot of the backseat. Adults and teens should always buckle up also, setting a good example for the children in the vehicle.
Look for crossing guards! Even if there are not signs and flashing lights, you may be approaching a school zone. Some private schools and charter schools do not have designated school zones. If you see crossing guards or children in general, slow down.
Come to a complete stop at all stop signs. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding. Children tend to trust the rules of the world. If there is a stop sign, they assume that a person will stop and wait there. They don’t yet have a map of the world that involves people rushing, looking at their phones, or not checking their surroundings. Keep this in mind and assume they don’t see you.
Always stop for loading or unloading school buses. It may be tempting to drive around stopped , but not only is it dangerous, it’s against the law. While researching this article, I found multiple stories about people who went around a , by simply continuing in the inside lane or by crossing over the center line. The reason drivers are required to completely stop for a bus, may not occur to people. Some may think going around doesn’t matter because the bus allows students to exit straight onto a sidewalk. The problem is, bus stops are arranged so that some kids live across the street from the stop. This requires them to exit the bus, cross in front of it and then cross the road. It is very common. If you see a bus coming to stop, be that driver who stops early. If you stop, the cars behind you will be forced to stop also. Using your car as a barrier is a good rule in general. I use it when someone is crossing the road, parking lot, whatever. Stopping yourself, rather than trying to slip by in the nick of time, guarantees that someone (you) is helping the pedestrian to cross safely.
Eliminate driver distraction. Research from AAA finds that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Putting down your phone makes you a safer driver and sets a good example for young passengers and pedestrians. Next time you are driving down the road, look at the other drivers around you. Most of them are glancing down and up, down and up. It’s a nearly comical sight (if it wasn’t killing so many people). Furthermore, eating while driving, talking on the phone, fighting or arguing with a passenger, grooming yourself, constantly adjusting the radio, or messing with your navigation system are just a few examples of . If it helps, download a podcast while you are at home and before your start driving. Listening to something interesting that is conversation-based can help to keep you entertained much more than music or silence. If you like comedy, download “A Mediocre Time with Tom and Dan”; if you like cars, download “Car Talk”; if you like learning about the world, download the “World in Words.” Or download an audio book from Amazon or your library’s website. All these things can help you to not use your phone, keep you entertained, and don’t require you to be distracted in order to enjoy your ride.
Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. and more than one-quarter of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m. If you have a teen driver, do some research about specific ways to help them. There are a lot of options these days for keeping your teen driver safe.
Talk to your kids. Tell them to only cross at corners or marked crosswalks and never between parked cars. Let them know that listening to music, talking on the phone, or playing games while walking and crossing streets is dangerous and not allowed. Specifically tell them that drivers can be distracted and unpredictable. This way, they are prepared and thinking about the dangers around them as they walk down the street. Naivety is never better than awareness.
Watch for bicyclists. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady, and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly-fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. It may sound shady, but follow them one day to see how they respond at street crossings, where they ride, and any other things they do along the way. Analyzing their bike riding habits can help you to form a meaningful conversation with tips that are based in actuality.
Take your kid on a walk. Similar to the tip about following your bicycle commuting child, try going on a walk or bike ride with them, following the same route that they would normally take. This way, you get to know what hazards they face each day and can give them advice about how to treat each one. Do this even if your kid only crosses one street or if you pick them up just down the road from the school. It is a very successful and good idea.
Plan ahead. Start leaving for your destination earlier. Allow extra time for congestion, stopping for gas, or a detour. Knowing that you will be on time, or even early, not only makes for a much less stressful drive, but it also makes you a safer driver. If possible, modify your route to avoid school zones and traffic.
Dolman Law Group
Our littles ones mean the world to us. We at Dolman Law Group drive our kids around all the time and are aware that parenting is not perfect. However, when it comes to driving with our children, the number of ways to lose them are alarming. Take that extra minute to make sure they are securely strapped in. don’t leave them in the car for a few minutes to run inside a store. Life can be tough but get into good habits. These precious moments can be the difference between life and death. Protecting our children by being aware of the surprising facts and safety tips can help to make sure that they do not become the next statistic.
However, if you find yourself in the unfortunate event of an accident involving your children or the children of others, it’s essential that you attain the best legal advice so that further action can be properly taken. The personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group are experienced in litigation and laws that govern your rights and options. We know you care about your children and so do we. It is our goal to help make our community safe and to protect our neighbors when it isn’t.
You can contact our injury law attorneys at (727) 451-6900. We are ready and willing to assist you and your family with any important issue you may be facing.