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Key Terms and Definitions

This page describes key terms, definitions, and concepts for individuals and stakeholders interested in non-traffic and child vehicle safety issues.




Safety advocates do NOT like using the term “accident” and instead prefer the term “incident.” calling something an “accident” implies that it happened randomly, by chance, and there's nothing anyone could have done to prevent it. Almost all vehicle-related tragedies are preventable. 


Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (or ADAS for short)

Suites of radar and camera sensors that enable systems like Forward Collision Warning,  Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Lane Keep Assist. These systems are not yet required on all new vehicles, but are good to look for when purchasing your next vehicle. Families can learn more about ADADS rankings, availability and more at IIHS, Consumer Reports, NCAP.


AMBER Alert 

An Amber Alert or a child abduction emergency alert is a message distributed by a child abduction alert system to ask the public for help in finding abducted children. The system originated in the United States. AMBER is a backronym standing for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. These are typically issued or sent out by police if a car theft involves a child left alone in a vehicle unattended. 


Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) 

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is defined as a system that constantly keeps track of the road ahead and will automatically stop or slow down the vehicle if a crash is imminent and the driver fails to take action. It is important to note, not all AEB systems can detect pedestrians. (see definition for pedestrian automatic emergency braking for more info)


Autonomous Vehicle (also known as a self-driving vehicle)

An autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that drives itself without any human interaction. At this time, even the highest level of driving automation available to consumers requires the full engagement and undivided attention of drivers. NHTSA offers information on the various levels of self-driving vehicles here. Learn more about the evolution of autonomous vehicles here.




A backover happens when a slow backwards moving vehicle runs into or over someone (commonly a small child) because the driver could not see them in the blindzone directly behind the vehicle. 


Backup Camera (also known as a rearview camera)

Now required in all new vehicles starting in 2018 thanks to Kids and Car Safety, a backup camera is a camera mounted on the rear of the vehicle that connects to a monitor inside the vehicle allowing the driver to see what is directly behind them when their vehicle is in reverse. 



The areas directly behind, in front and on the sides of all vehicles where the driver cannot see a child, pedestrian or pet even when using their rear and side view mirrors correctly. 


Blind Spot  

The area on the side of your vehicle where you cannot see another vehicle when attempting to change or switch lanes on the roadway.


Blind Spot Monitoring (also known as blind spot warning)

This is an advanced driving assistance system (ADAS) that detects vehicles in the blind spot while driving and notifies the driver of their presence. 


Brake Transmission Shift Interlock (BTSI)

The BTSI feature is designed to prevent you from shifting your vehicle into gear without your foot pressing on the brake pedal. As of 2010, this safety feature is now required in all new vehicles thanks to advocacy by Kids and Car Safety to prevent children (pets or anyone) from accidentally knocking a vehicle into gear. Learn how to tell if your vehicle has this feature here.



Car Theft 

A car theft occurs when a person steals a vehicle that has been left running or with the keys inside. 


Cars stolen with children inside 

These incidents happen when an adult leaves a child alone in a vehicle that is then stolen with the child still inside. Kids and Car Safety is the only group documenting cases of car thefts involving children who are left unattended inside a vehicle that is stolen. The organization documents hundreds of these cases every year. Learn more here


Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is emitted by running vehicles and can quickly cause disorientation, sudden illness or even death. Often called the “silent or invisible killer,” the deadly gas often goes undetected, striking victims who are caught off guard or succumb in their sleep. Early signs of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and nausea. CO poisoning from vehicles can occur when a vehicle is left running in a garage or enclosed space or from a mechanical issue that allows the deadly gas to leak into the cabin of a vehicle. Learn more here


Childcare Absence Policies

Childcare absence policies are policies put in place by child care facilities or policies that require childcare providers to call families when/if a child does not show up as scheduled. Learn more here


Child Presence Detection (CPD)

CPD is a vehicle safety system that detects a child who is left alone in a vehicle or gains access to a vehicle on their own. There are a variety of different types of sensing systems including motion, radar, lidar, carbon dioxide sensors, and more. Learn more here.


Childproof Your Ride 

“Childproof Your Ride” is a Kids and Car Safety national educational program aimed at informing parents and caregivers about the many dangers children face in and around vehicles and what can be done to mitigate those dangers. Learn more here.


​​Crash Avoidance Systems (CAS)

CAS is a system that works by using radars, sensors, cameras, or even lasers to detect if and when a crash is about to happen. It uses this information to alert the driver with a warning.



Department of Transportation  (DOT)

The DOT is the government agency responsible for planning and coordinating federal transportation projects. It also sets safety regulations and issues recalls for all major modes of transportation (planes, trains and vehicles). The USDOT oversees the entire country while each state has its own DOT that addresses statewide transportation safety. 



Electric Vehicle (EV) 

An EV is defined as a vehicle that can be powered by an electric motor that draws electricity from a battery and is capable of being charged from an external source. An EV includes both a vehicle that can only be powered by an electric motor that draws electricity from a battery (all-electric vehicle) and a vehicle that can be powered by an electric motor that draws electricity from a battery and by an internal combustion engine (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle).


End-of-Trip Rear Seat Reminder Alert (commonly referred to as door logic or rear occupant alert) 

This is a safety feature that is common in many vehicles today that is a simple reminder alert to check the back seat of your vehicle. If you open a rear door prior to driving your vehicle, when you turn the engine off, this system will give you an audio and/or visual reminder to check the back seat. It is important to note that these systems DO NOT detect a child in the rear seat and may not be effective at preventing hot car deaths. Numerous children have died in hot cars that had this type of system. Instead, KACS recommends “occupant detection and alert” features to prevent hot car tragedies as they are more effective and can actually detect a child in a vehicle and ensure help is provided immediately. 



Fall from Vehicle 

A fall from a vehicle is a type of non traffic incident where a person is injured or killed falling from a stationary vehicle, many times while entering or exiting the vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Not-in-Traffic Surveillance report, falls while boarding (entering) or alighting (exiting) a vehicle were the second most common nontraffic injury scenario with an estimated 11,000 injuries per year involving children. 


Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS)

FARS is a nationwide database providing NHTSA, Congress and the American public data on fatal traffic crashes within the U.S. To be included in FARS, a crash must involve a motor vehicle traveling on a traffic way customarily open to the public, and must result in the death of a vehicle occupant or a nonoccupant within 30 days of the crash. Nontraffic incidents are NOT included in FARS.


Flash flood 

A flood caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than 6 hours. Flash floods are usually characterized by raging torrents after heavy rains that rip through river beds, urban streets, or mountain canyons sweeping everything before them. 



A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Floods are an area of study of the discipline hydrology and are of significant concern in agriculture, civil engineering and public health. 


Flood water

Flood water is the water overflowing as the result of a flood. It is important to understand sometimes flood water damaged cars are sold to consumers without spelling out the potential fatal and non-fatal risks these types of cars can cause in the future. 


Forward Collision Warning

Forward collision warning systems warn you of an impending collision by detecting  stopped or slowly moving vehicles ahead of your vehicle. Forward collision warning uses radar, lasers, or cameras to scan the road ahead while you drive.



A frontover occurs when a driver moves forward very slowly and runs over a child or adult. It usually occurs because the driver did not see the child or adult in the blindzone directly in front of a vehicle. Front blindzones range from 5-15 feet. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blindzone.



Good Samaritan State Laws 

Good Samaritan laws are designed to protect citizens from liability if they break into a vehicle to rescue a person or pet in distress that is trapped inside. These laws are meant to encourage citizens to act without fear of retribution. This is critical because minutes can be the difference between life or death for a person or pet trapped inside a hot car. Currently 25 states have Good Samaritan laws specific to hot car rescue.




Heatstroke occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.


Hot car 

A hot car is an enclosed car that is overheated and has the potential to fatally harm a child, animal or adult who is trapped inside.


Hot Car Technology 

Hot car technology is a safety system designed to prevent hot car deaths. There are many types of hot car technologies with varying functionalities. Some less effective systems use door logic to remind a driver to check the back seat if they opened the door before driving somewhere. More effective hot car technologies use radar, lidar, ultrasonic sensors or even carbon dioxide detectors to detect occupants and alert a driver if a child has been left in the vehicle. There are many examples of hot car technology



Hybrid electric vehicles are powered by an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors, which uses energy stored in batteries. A hybrid electric vehicle cannot be plugged in to charge the battery. Instead, the battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine.



Immersion (also known as submersion)

A vehicle immersion occurs when a motor vehicle becomes submerged in a body of water or in flood waters. 




For the purposes of Kids and Car Safety non traffic data collection efforts, juvenile’s are considered children age 14 and younger.



Kids and Car Safety (KACS) 

KACS (formerly is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children and pets in and around motor vehicles with a special emphasis on nontraffic incidents. The organization’s legal nonprofit name is KIDS AND CARS, INC. 



Look Before You Lock (LBYL)

LBYL is a slogan and program created by Kids and Car Safety to encourage parents to open the back door of their vehicle and check the back seat every time they leave their vehicle to make sure no children are unknowingly left behind in the back seat. 





National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigates safety defects in motor vehicles, sets and enforces fuel economy standards, helps states and local communities reduce the threat of drunk drivers, promotes the use of safety belts, child safety seats and airbags, investigates odometer fraud, establishes and enforces vehicle anti-theft regulations, conducts research on driver behavior and traffic safety, and provides consumer information on motor vehicle safety topics.


Nontraffic (also known as non-traffic)

Nontraffic is a term used to describe vehicle-related incidents that take place off of roadways usually occurring in parking lots, driveways or other private property locations. Examples include, but are not limited to backovers, frontovers, hot car deaths, carbon monoxide poisoning, falls, power window injury, trunk entrapment, etc. There are two subcategories of nontraffic incidents defined below - nontraffic crash and non-crash.


Nontraffic Crash 

A nontraffic crash is a vehicle-related incident that takes place off of public roadways involving a vehicle crash. Examples include backovers, frontovers, vehicles knocked into gear, etc.


Nontraffic Non-Crash

A nontraffic non-crash event is a vehicle-related incident that takes place off of public roadways involving a vehicle that is not in motion. Examples include hot car deaths, power window strangulation/injury, crush injuries, falls, etc.


Non-Traffic Surveillance (NTS) (formerly known as Not-in-Traffic Surveillance or NiTS)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Non-Traffic Surveillance (NTS) system is a virtual data collection system designed to provide counts and details regarding fatalities and injuries that occur in non-traffic crashes and in non-crash incidents which typically take place in parking lots, driveways and other private property locations. 



Occupant Detection and Alert Systems

These safety systems use a variety of sensing methods like radar, lidar, ultrasonic sensors, carbon dioxide detection, etc. to detect the presence of occupants inside a vehicle. These systems are designed to help prevent child hot car deaths, but can also be used for a variety of other use cases in vehicles. The radar and lidar systems are so sophisticated that they can tell the difference between a child and an adult or even a pet. They can then work with other vehicle systems to alert the driver, bystanders or even authorities that a child is trapped inside a vehicle alone.



Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB) 

PAEB technology relies on forward-looking detection capability provided by sensors to actively assist the driver by automatically applying brakes to avoid or mitigate a potential contact between the equipped vehicle and pedestrians.



The sound a duck makes. (Did that quack you up?)



Rearview Camera (also known as backup camera)

Now required in all new vehicles starting in 2018 thanks to Kids and Car Safety, a backup camera is mounted on the rear of the vehicle that connects to a monitor inside the vehicle allowing the driver to see what is directly behind them when their vehicle is in reverse. 


Rear visibility Standard

A rear visibility standard was issued as a result of the passage of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act signed by President Bush in February of 2008. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) requires ALL vehicles sold or leased in the US to come with a rearview camera as standard equipment as of May, 2018 regardless of where they’re manufactured. Kids and Car Safety led the efforts for the rear visibility standard and have seen the number of backover injuries and deaths have significantly declined as a result.


Rear Seat Belt Reminder

Rear seat belt reminders are a vehicle safety system that alerts the driver if rear seat passengers are buckled or not. Rear seat belt reminders will be required by law as a result of a provision passed in the 2012 Federal Transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).



Seat Belt Reminder

Seat belt reminders are a vehicle safety system that alerts the driver if passengers are buckled or not. Rear seat belt reminders will be required for all seating positions by law as a result of a provision passed in the 2012 Federal Transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).


STOP Frontovers Act 

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s STOP Frontovers Act of 2022 is legislation that demands that NHTSA issue a federal safety standard mandating preventive technology in all new vehicles to reduce deaths from low-speed frontovers. The bill was introduced in 2022 and is expected to be reintroduced in 2024 during the new legislative session. 


Submersion (also known as immersion)

A vehicle submersion happens when a vehicle goes into a body of water or is swept away by flood waters and begins to sink. Learn more



Trunk Entrapment 

Trunk entrapments occur when a person or pet becomes trapped inside the trunk of a vehicle and is unable to escape. Thanks to a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) championed by Kids and Car Safety, all cars with a trunk that are model year 2002 and newer come with a glow in the dark trunk release as standard equipment. Kids and Car Safety is not aware of ANY trunk entrapment deaths that have happened in a vehicle with a trunk release. 


Trunk Release 

Glow-in-the dark internal trunk release mechanisms are required inside the trunks of all vehicles model year 2002 or newer. Kids and Car Safety is not aware of any deaths in the trunk of a car that has an inside the trunk release. Zero. (read the regulation)



Underage drivers 

Underaged drivers are typically youths between the ages of 5 and 14 who either drive or steal a  car and don’t have a license. Underage drivers from the ages of 15 - 17 without a license are also considered underage drivers but juveniles. 



Vehicle set in motion 

A vehicle is set in motion incident happens when a person or pet inadvertently moves the gear shift from park into either reverse or drive causing the vehicle to be set into motion. 


Vehicle submersion (or immersion) 

A vehicle submersion occurs when a vehicle either crashes into water or when a vehicle is swept away by flood waters with passengers inside. 



Window Strangulation 

A window strangulation occurs when a child, adult or animals’ oxygen supply is fatally cut off due to being choked by a window or window. Power windows exert between 30-80 pounds of force. 


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