Kids and Driveway Safety

The Problem:

he risk to your children and other people’s children I want to mention may be one you are already aware of, and have already taken precautions against, but I want to mention just in case. It's the risk of accidentally backing over a child with your car in a driveway. Janette E. Fennell, Founder & President of KIDS AND CARS explains it very well (

"In the US fifty children are being backed over by vehicles EVERY week. Forty-eight are treated in hospital emergency rooms and at least two children are fatally injured every WEEK. These unthinkable tragedies are happening most often in the driveway of the child's home and in 70% of the incidents the driver of the vehicle is their parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or older sibling."

Journalist Janice Lieberman adds:

"Here's the typical scenario: a parent says goodbye to their child, gets in the car, checks the mirrors and takes off. The child wanting to say good bye one last time runs after the car and the parent can't see the child. They have actually named this as 'the bye, bye syndrome.'"

Two things you can do help kids be safer in driveways:

Apart from being aware of the issue, and being more careful as a result, there are two practical things you can do. One is to have a backing camera installed in your car. The other is something I thought of after a four-year-old girl came to live at my place, and I put into practice myself, and have since found out is often used by professional drivers who frequently go into people's driveways. A friend of mine who worked for many years as a linesman for an electric company said it was his company's policy, and all their employees were required to do it. It is this:

Rather than drive forward into your parking spot in your driveway (or someone elses), making it necessary for you to back out and turn when you leave, turn and back up on your way in to the driveway, so you can drive straight out when you leave, with a clear view of what's ahead of you.

Why it's better to back into driveways than back out:

The reason why it's much safer to turn and back up on the way in to a driveway is that you can survey the driveway in front of you and check for the presence of children or pets before turning and backing, then, having determined there are no kids or pets around, straight away do the turn and back up into your parking spot. Because there is no delay before backing up, there is very little or no opportunity for a child or a pet to get in behind the car and get backed over. On the other hand, if you come in forward and have to back up when you leave, even if you remember to walk around the car to make sure it's clear before getting in to it (recommended by the DMV in the Driver's Handbook), there is still a delay of about a minute or more while you get in the car, fasten your seat belt, start the engine, etc. During this minute or so you don't know what's happening close in behind your car, where there's a large blind spot you can't see, even if you look in your mirrors, and this is long enough for a pet, a toddler or a young child to wander in behind your car. And this is exactly how children can get injured and killed by being backed over.

Other advantages of backing into driveways:

  • Even if you know that you would never back out if you knew there were pet or a child anywhere in the front yard, it's still safer to back in first, for a number of reasons. One time it may be your partner, your older son or daughter who has just learned to drive, or a friend, who drives your car out, not you, so if you set the car up for a safe exit by backing it in yourself, you take responsibility for your children's safety, and avoid potential problems. And even if it is you who drives out, it is possible that one day you may be tired, frazzled, in a rush, and not notice your child is in the front yard because he is behind a tree or some other object - it's much better for you to have set up a safe forward exit in advance by backing in.

  • It gives you more choice about when to do the potentially hazardous backing up. If you are feeling good and alert, and there are no kids or pets in the front yard when you arrive home (perhaps your kids are even in your car), you know you can safely turn and back into your parking spot. But you have a choice: if your kids are running around the yard, or you are very tired and think you might back into a tree if you even try it, you can choose to just drive slowly forward into your parking spot. You can then turn your car around at your leisure, when you know it's safe to do so, or make sure you leave sufficient time and are not in a rush, and that the kids are all safely indoors, when you do leave, if you know you'll have to back up. On the other hand, if you come in forward all the time you don't give yourself a choice: you have to back out every time, regardless of your state of mind, how much of a rush you're in, what the visibility is like, etc.

    One minor extra advantage of backing in is that your trunk is then a little closer to the house for unloading your shopping from the car.

    Pros and Cons of Backing in v/s using a Backing Camera:

    Now a couple of pros and cons for backing in over having a backing camera.

  • With installation, a backing camera will cost over $1,000; backing in is free.

  • If you back in, people will ask you why you do it, and it will give you an opportunity to explain why, and possibly persuade them to get into this habit, too, especially if they are coming into your driveway! You are much more likely to get them to do this than spend $1,000 + on a backing camera.

  • Backing cameras only work if you have them switched on, and are looking at the display when you are backing up. You can't be looking at the display if you are turning your head or looking in a mirror to see what's further afield as you back up. The best you can really do is to check the backup camera immediately before starting to back up.

  • I should mention one slight disadvantage of backing in. Some people are not very good at backing up, and may have trouble at first parking exactly where they want to if they back into their parking spot in their driveway. You may, for a while, find your car ends up at a bit of an odd angle. Pretty soon, though, you'll get better at it, and that will be a safety advantage for you when you need to back up out in the street. You'll be improving an important driving skill.

    Backing is still potentially dangerous on the way in, though not nearly so much so as on the way out, for the reasons already mentioned. One would be wise to bear in mind the possibility that a child may rush out to greet you as you're backing in, and to be on the lookout for that.

    Of course, getting into the habit of turning and backing on the way in when it's safe to do so, and having a backing camera as well, would be best of all.

    Always Take Care:

    Finally, although backing out of a driveway is the big potential danger to kids, it's worth bearing in mind that some children, though much fewer, are also killed by cars rolling forward over them in driveways, so one should be careful going forward, too. Walking around your car, and looking under the front of it, is also a good idea before getting in it to go forward. Then, if you keep your eyes on the area around the front of your car, you can be sure no child moves into this area before you drive off.

    - Mark Mason, 2010


    A very good website for information on this topic:

    Click here for the homepage of this website,
    the page for my book In Search of the Loving God,
    which includes two complete chapters from the book: