Tragedy Shows Front Blind Spot Also a Danger for Kids

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CARS.COM —  The recent tragedy involving a former NFL player who killed his young daughter in his driveway spotlights a front blind spot danger that gets less attention than risks for kids lost in the blind spot behind a vehicle.

Related: Cars.com's 2016-17 Car Seat Honor Roll

Todd Heap, 37, a pro tight end for 12 years, accidently ran over his 3-year-old daughter on April 14 while moving his truck forward in his driveway in Mesa, Ariz. It was, as a statement from the Baltimore Ravens, for whom he played 10 years, put it, a "knee-buckling" loss.

This type of heart-wrenching accident -- typically in a slow maneuver in a driveway or parking lot and involving parents or other relatives at the wheel -- is known as a "frontover." They are similar to backover accidents and only slightly less common, becoming more so with the increased sales of SUVs and pickup trucks with high hoods and high dashboards. Small children, with no sense of danger, may wander into that spot, often trailing after mom or dad.

Data from safety group KidsAndCars.org, show 803 children killed in frontovers since 1994, with 42 killed in 2016 alone. That compares with 1,366 child deaths in backovers since 1994 and 59 in 2016. The group points out that while the blind spot may be up to 50 feet behind a vehicle, a high vehicle can have a similar blind spot that extends up to 8 feet ahead -- plenty of space in which a toddler can be hidden from view.

The standardization of backup cameras, as well as the rise of rear cross-traffic alerts that "see" pedestrians, have helped make that area safer. But there is technology that illuminates front blind spots, too, though it is less common and not generally standard. Several family SUVs, such as the Nissan Pathfinder or Hyundai Santa Fe, offer 360-degree cameras with front views of that blind spot. The Nissan system also includes a Moving Object Detection feature. But you must be a smart shopper and select the right option package to get such technology, and then you must use it.

Front sensors that can alert you to pedestrians also are available on some vehicles. A recent drive in a Kia Niro hybrid SUV in New York City's Times Square area demonstrated to us just how alert these sensors can be if you make sure to leave them on.

But the bottom line is that there is no technology that is a substitute for both checking where young children are and looking at the appropriate blind spot before you get behind the wheel.

 

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D.C. Bureau Chief Fred Meier, who lives every day with Washington gridlock, has an un-American love of small wagons and hatchbacks.  Email Fred

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