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Are SUVs a Danger to Kids?

While many people are eager to sit up high in their SUV, the feeling of safety is apparently one that is restricted to the interior of the vehicle. According to a new article published by CNN, more than 2,400 children are run over by SUVs being reversed. The article says drivers cannot see what is close to the vehicle and children in particular, are at risk.

Unfortunately, the CNN article is bringing attention to a situation that is not new. In August 2003, the Detroit News published an article on SUV backup dangers. According to the research offered by author Jeff Plungis, 32.1% of all fatalities by incident in 2002 were from being backed over by the vehicle. This statistic, however, was only the second most common danger zone – with children being left in the vehicle and dying being tops – at 36.7%.

A safety activist group called Kids and Cars (www.kidsandcars.org), is trying to get the word out about safety and children. The organization offers education tips, statistics on incidents, and discusses pending and potential legislation to protect children around all vehicles, not just SUVs. Other articles have recently been published by other newspapers, including the Globe and Sun and the Las Vegas Sun.

Regardless of the statistics, some people feel that owners should be held accountable, rather than the vehicles being noted as dangerous. President Bush has opposed several measures approved by the House, calling them, “too prescriptive.” Others, such as Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen, a non-profit public interest organization, feels the equipment itself should be regulated. Ms. Claybrook was administrator of the NHTSA from 1977 through 1981.

As the trend towards SUV and crossover vehicles continues, the question comes up: Should SUVs be labeled as potentially dangerous vehicles in ordinary driving? Does this excuse drivers themselves from the responsibility of knowing where their children and others who may be in proximity to their vehicles are? And, given the technology available today, will rear-view video cameras be enough to signal whether or not a child or pet is present when a vehicle begins to back up? Time will tell.

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