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A Driveway Is Not a Playground

Study: Hard-to-see toddlers at highest risk

MONDAY, Aug. 6, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Sending your kids out to the driveway to ride their bikes or to draw with chalk may seem harmless, but a new study says it's a dangerous place for kids.

Drivers often don't see children behind a car and may hit them, or children get hurt when they climb into unlocked cars and accidentally knock the vehicle out of gear, the researchers say.

The study, published in the August issue of Pediatrics, found that children under age 4 were the most likely to be hurt in driveway accidents. And sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and light pickup trucks were involved in more driveway accidents than other vehicles.

"We wanted to increase people's awareness of the potential hazards of the driveway," says Dr. Henri Ford, chief of pediatric surgery at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Ford and his colleagues looked at data from 1986 through 1999 from their trauma center and found 64 children had been injured in a driveway accidents.

Two distinct patterns of injury emerged: Children were hurt either when a car driven by an adult struck or ran them over, or when they got into a car and accidentally set it in motion.

Those hurt when an adult was driving were more seriously injured; four died. The average age of kids in this group was 2. Eighty-five percent of injuries occurred when an adult was driving in reverse, Ford says. And almost twice as many SUVs or trucks were involved in these accidents.

Ford says this might be because of the rise in popularity of these vehicles. He recommends that manufacturers of SUVs and light trucks try to design better mirrors so drivers can see behind them.

The average age of second group was 4.5 years. About half of these children were injured when the vehicle was accidentally set in motion and they jumped out of the moving car. Other injuries occurred when a car hit an object or a pedestrian.

"Parents need to be aware of this issue," says Stephanie Faul, a spokeswoman for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in Washington D.C. "It's more common than people think."

No national statistics are kept on driveway accidents because they occur on private property and don't require a police report.

What To Do

"Don't leave children unattended in the driveway. It's not the place for recreation," says Ford.

Faul says parents need to be especially vigilant with children around age 2, who are mobile but don't yet have the cognitive ability to recognize dangerous situations. She suggests walking completely around your car before you go anywhere, and making sure you know where your children are when you pull out of the driveway.

Both Ford and Faul recommend putting up your windows and locking your car when you get out so children can't get in.

To read more about how dangerous your driveway can be, go to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas library.

For more information on protecting your children from harm, read this article from the National Safe Kids Campaign.

SOURCES: Interviews with Henri Ford, M.D., F.A.A.P., chief of pediatric surgery and director, Benedum Trauma Program, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Stephanie Faul, spokesperson, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Washington D.C.; August 2001 Pediatrics
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