The “bye-bye” syndrome epidemic

More than one child every week dies as a result of being struck by their own parents’ car as they run outside to say goodbye. How can we prevent this tragedy from occurring? Find out some simple steps to take to prevent this from happening to you or your family.

Child Chasing Car

In May 2008, the five-year-old daughter of Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman was playing in the family driveway when her brother accidentally struck her with his SUV. Maria Sue later died at the hospital. (See Steven Curtis Chapman with Maria Sue Chapman below.)

In Germantown, Wisconsin, Diane Anthony repeatedly ran over her two-year-old son — thinking he was the landscape timber in her front yard that she had run over before. After being struck four times by the 4,600-pound van, the boy amazingly survived.

On Easter Sunday 2003, Steve Campbell was backing his truck out of the driveway when he struck his two-year-old son, Drew. Drew died on the way to the hospital.

A New Epidemic?

Maria Sue Chapman - backover tragedy

The families above are just a few examples of this all-too-common tragedy. The federal government says that over 2,400 children each year are treated in hospital emergency rooms for back-over accidents. More than one child dies this way every week, according to Janette Fennell, founder of Kids and Cars, a national organization that monitors automobile-related child safety issues.

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This type of accident has become so common that it’s been labeled the “Bye-Bye Syndrome.” More that 60% of these young victims are struck by their own parents or a close relative. Children run outside to say goodbye or so they won’t be left behind, and their parents never see them coming. Children between 12 months and 23 months old are most often the victims of Bye-Bye Syndrome.

Nature of the Beast

About 60% of back-over accidents involve large vehicles — SUVs, vans, pick-up trucksautomobiles that have surprisingly large blind spots.

“The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot,” says David Champion, the auto test director for Consumer Reports. Taller vehicles and vehicles with a greater distance between the driver and the tailgate or rear window have larger invisibility zones.

Most drivers recognize that there are areas behind their vehicle that they cannot see, but many do not realize how big those areas actually are. According to Champion, a child would have to stand quite a distance from any vehicle before the driver could see him: 10 feet for a compact car, 18 feet for a minivan, 25 feet for a large pickup, and over 46 feet for a Suburban-type SUV.

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Blind spots are even larger for shorter drivers, in vehicles with small windows, and in cars with high-mounted seats.

Saving the Children

According to Fennell, Kids and Cars is pushing Congress to make safety technology — such as backup sensors — mandatory on new vehicles. The auto industry has not yet addressed this safety issue because it’s not cost effective, reports CNN.

Some newer trucks and SUVs have optional equipment that will help, plus there are safety devices that drivers can install themselves.

  • Sensors added to the back of a vehicle will beep to alert a driver that something is in the way at the rear of the car. (See some of the backup sensors available here.)
  • An advanced video system virtually eliminates blind spots to increase visibility. Such systems are offered by SafeView and numerous other companies, as seen here.
  • Additional and oversize side and review mirrors that lessen blind spots can be added to any vehicle at minimal expense.

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You can never be too careful

the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reminds parents, “Look behind you as you back out S-L-O-W-L-Y with your windows rolled down to listen for children who may have dashed behind your vehicle suddenly — and be prepared to stop!”

Kids and Cars make the following ten recommendations to keep children safer:

  1. Walk around and behind a vehicle before moving it.
  2. Know where your kids are and make sure another adult is properly supervising them before moving your vehicle.
  3. Make children move away from your vehicle to a place where they are in full view before moving the car.
  4. Teach children that parked vehicles might move and that just because they can see the vehicle doesn’t mean the driver can see them.
  5. Keep toys and other sports equipment off the driveway.
  6. Teach your children to never play in, around, or behind a vehicle.
  7. Never leave children alone in or around cars — not even for a minute.
  8. Always set the emergency brake (and, if you have a manual transmission, put the car in gear).
  9. Trim landscaping to improve visibility when backing out of the driveway.
  10. Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and holidays or periods of crisis.

“There is nothing worse then burying a child,” says Fennell, “but can you imagine the horror of being the one responsible?”

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