Have You Been Injured, or Someone You Love Killed, in a Backover Accident?
A backover accident, as the name suggests, is when an individual—usually a pedestrian, but occasionally a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or even another car—is hit or run over by a car that is backing up. Typically, such accidents happen in parking lots and driveways.
Because backover crashes usually happen when someone is backing out of a parking space, the impact is often at a relatively low speed. However, one of the dangers lies in the fact that drivers who back their vehicles into someone have failed to see them and, consequently, may not apply the brakes until they have already run over someone. For obvious reasons, this is especially dangerous—and more likely to be fatal—when the victim is a pedestrian.
Young children are especially vulnerable to backover accidents. Unless the vehicle has a backup camera, there is a fairly large “blind zone” behind every vehicle for any person or item that is shorter than the lowest level of the vehicle’s rear window. Large SUV’s and trucks have larger blind zones than other vehicles because their rear windows are higher off the ground, and because the car body length behind the driver is longer than in a normal car. These factors make it much harder for the driver to see anything that is close to or below window-height for an extended length behind the vehicle.
Consumer Reports conducted a study of “blind zones” for a large variety of vehicles to determine how far back a safety cone had to be placed before the driver could see the top of the cone. For some large SUV’s, the blind zone was over 30 feet behind the vehicle, and the distance was of course greater for shorter drivers than for taller drivers. As a result of the dangers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed that all vehicles beginning in model year 2014 should have, as standard equipment, a rear backup camera or some other device that minimizes or eliminates the blind zone.
Until recently, the NHTSA did not track the number of backover accidents that happened in the United States because those accidents usually were not classified as “traffic” accidents—that is, accidents that happened on public roadways. However, in 2009, the NHTSA was commissioned by Congress to correct this oversight, since backover accidents seemed to constitute an important component of the overall vehicle safety picture in this country. After researching emergency department records, media reports, and other resources for the calendar year 2007, the NHTSA concluded that nearly 300 fatalities and 18,000 injuries can be attributed to backover accidents every year, and the majority of these—that is, about 220 fatalities and 14,000 injuries—occur in non-traffic situations.
KidsandCars.org further estimates that 50 children are sent to the emergency room every week from backover accidents, and two of these incidents result in fatalities. Extrapolating that to 104 child fatalities per year, the tragic reality is that almost 35% of both traffic and non-traffic fatalities from backover accidents are to young children under five years old, and most of these youngsters are usually between one and two years old. Sadly, for the backover accidents that involve children, many of the drivers—roughly 70%–are parents or other family members who are backing out of their driveways or garages, not realizing that these toddlers may have followed them outside as they went to get the car, or were otherwise in the vicinity.
NHTSA data further reveals that another 25% of backover fatalities are to individuals 70 years and older. Unfortunately, both young toddlers and elderly individuals share a trait: they have a diminished capacity to observe and quickly react physically to a car slowly heading toward them or hitting them. In addition to this vulnerability, they also have inherent physical frailties that make it more likely that even a low-speed impact will cause tremendous harm.
Because these accidents happen as a result of someone not seeing—or not looking for—someone behind them, drivers often continue to run over the person they knock down because, unlike many forward collisions, they do not react to apply the brakes until they have already made impact, and the delay can result in an individual being completely run over. What is more, it is more likely that the victim will be run over by a heavy vehicle, because larger vehicles like SUV’s and trucks have greater blind zones. SUV’s and trucks are involved in 60% of backover accidents.
While backover accidents are relatively rare compared to other traffic accidents, the danger they present is very real.
Vigilance—of Pedestrians and Drivers—is Essential
Because of the risk of backover accidents, joggers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians need to be especially vigilant when going through residential areas, and people need to be particularly careful when walking or driving through parking lots. It is especially important to carry or hold on to young children, and to teach them as early as possible to be aware of the dangers of walking behind vehicles. Unfortunately, many drivers are just not careful enough about backing up, and that is especially true in their own driveways, where they do not anticipate anyone or anything being in their way. Whenever an individual must walk behind an occupied or operating vehicle, they should assume that the driver does not or will not see them, and give the vehicle a wide swath.
On the other side of the equation, drivers should be much more vigilant when moving in reverse, and should never assume that nothing or no one is behind them just because they do not see them in their rearview mirrors. If the vehicle lacks a backup camera or backup sensors, then they should make a physical visual inspection before driving the car in reverse, and move the vehicle very slowly so that if there is an impact, they can make an immediate stop. They should also listen for any sounds of voices or impacts, as people will often make their presence known by shouting an alert, and will usually cry out if they are hit. Further, even if there is nothing behind the vehicle when it begins moving, drivers should continually monitor what is behind them as they continue to move, to keep an eye out for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, or motorists who are themselves not being vigilant for cars that may be backing out of a parking space or a driveway, or to observe if any vehicles are moving into the zone behind the vehicle where a blind spot may have prevented them from being seen.
If You are Injured in a Backover Accident, Call the Personal Injury Attorneys at Abels & Annes in Chicago
If you have been injured or someone you love has been injured or killed in a backover accident, the car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes in Chicago can help you. We have extensive experience assisting the victims of vehicle accidents who have been injured through the negligence or recklessness of motorists. We have assisted pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists, and drivers; we have assisted people with catastrophic injuries such as accident victims who suffered traumatic spine and head injuries; we have assisted young and old clients, and new and returning clients, and you can be sure we will work hard to get you all that you are entitled to.
If you are a resident of Chicago, Cook County, or any of the neighboring communities and you would like to find out if we can help you with a backover accident case, call our toll-free number at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or locally in Chicago at (312) 924-7575. You can also tell us about your accident using the online form here on this website. Your consultation is completely free, and there is no obligation on your part to hire us after you talk to us. If we decide to proceed with a case, you can rest assured that you will pay no fees or costs unless and until a financial recovery is obtained on your behalf, either through a settlement approved by you, or by pursuing a lawsuit.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. in Chicago have built a strong reputation for providing our clients with the help they need when they need it. Let us get to work for you.
If you have been injured in a backover accident, call Abels & Annes, P.C. today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or Contact Us online for a free case consultation.