The numbers are staggering. 50 kids each week are backed over by cars. Two children each week are killed.
It's happening across the United States. "By the time I got to Alec I already knew he was gone," said Adriann Raschdorf-Nelson, whose 16-month old son Alec Nelson was backed over and killed in his driveway. "He was endlessly happy. He always had a smile on his face."
Experts say it's one of the top five killers of children and it's happening in Texoma. It's happening to children like Michael Sandoval who was four when he was hit by a car backing up in his Wichita Falls apartment complex in 2004. Michael was dragged 30 feet and care-flighted to Cooks Hospital in Dallas.
Then in 2008, Jose Escamilla Jr. was only 19-months old when his dad was backing out of the driveway and didn't see him. He suffered a skull fracture.
Jose's case is all too common, in fact, more than 70% of all back-over accidents happen when a relative of the child is behind the wheel.
Janette Fennell the Founder of Kids & Cars said, "In these cases it's even worse because suddenly, the people who love them the most, who adore them, are suddenly responsible for their death."
In both of these incidents no charges were filed. The Wichita Falls Police Department tells us they're just unfortunate accidents. But Fennell says these types of accidents are avoidable. She says this a growing problem and as cars and trucks get bigger, blind zones get wider. "The ones with some of the worst visibility are SUV's, pickup trucks and minivans, which many of those are family vehicles, so it really adds to the problem." An average-size sedan has a 17-foot blind spot. A midsize SUV has a 23 foot blind zone.
So we decided to test out the rear-view visibility. We put nine staffers from our newsroom behind a Ford Taurus. None of them were visible. Fennell said, "It's impossible not to hit something you can't see."
It wasn't until recently the federal government even began tracking fatalities and injuries on private roads. Part of the reason for the change, the HR 1216 Cameron Gulbransen Kids And Cars Safety Act. The bill was signed into law in 2008. It establishes new rules making deadlines for child safety including requiring vehicles have an expanded rear-view in order to prevent back-over accidents. Fennell said, "Of course none of us would buy a vehicle if we couldn't see 20 to 30 feet going forward." She says those new regulations should be out by February of next year. Until then, the responsibility falls on drivers and parents. Something Adriann Raschdorf-Nelson doesn't take lightly. "This can happen to anyone. It has nothing to do with negligence. It has everything to do with not being able to see behind you when you back up."