INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — 13 Investigates measured the blind zone in front of 22 vehicles. The goal is to help drivers better understand how much space in front of their vehicle is obstructed from view, posing a potential danger of a frontover accident. The size of the blind zone can vary greatly based on a number of factors, such as the height of the driver, the position of the seat, the height of the object in front of the vehicle, and the angle of the driving surface. WTHR used a 5 feet 4 inch driver (the average height of a female in the U.S.) and a 29 inch orange traffic cone to represent the approximate height of a 12-month-old. Testing was conducted after the driver adjusted each seat to a comfortable driving position, typically with the seat near its highest position. On a flat parking lot, we placed the traffic cone in front of the center the bumper and slowly moved it outward until the driver could see the top of the cone. We then measured the distance between the front bumper and the cone to determine the blind zone length. Because the blind zone distance can change with even a small adjustment by the driver, 13 Investigates calculated measurements using two different seating positions: one measurement with the driver sitting in a traditional, relaxed driving position and another measurement with the driver leaned up toward the steering wheel.
13 Investigates: Millions of vehicles have unexpected, dangerous front blind zone
INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Millions of popular vehicles have a hidden blind spot that puts children at an increased risk of being injured or killed. That large blind zone, located directly in front of the vehicles, has contributed to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries, according to safety advocates who are now trying to warn consumers. “Can you even imagine killing your own child because you couldn’t see them?” asked Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org, an organization that tracks vehicle-related accidents involving children. “I think very few people understand that this blind zone exists, and there’s a huge danger when these vehicles start moving forward.” KidsAndCars has been tracking the emergence and rapid increase of what it calls “frontover” accidents: accidents involving children who are struck while they are in front of a slow-moving vehicle.
Fennell believes a trend toward larger vehicles, which tend to have larger front blind zones, and away from family sedans has played the most dramatic role in the rising statistics. “As a country, we really are moving to just producing SUVs, trucks and minivans,” she said. “Everyone has the bigger vehicles, so the likelihood of this happening just gets higher and higher, and this problem is only going to get worse.”
Tragedies strike IndianaIndiana has seen its share of tragic frontover accidents. A 7-year-old Mishawaka boy was killed last summer when a neighbor struck him as she attempted to pull her SUV into the driveway. On the west side of Indianapolis, a 2-year-old girl was hit and killed by the driver of a SUV who did not see her in the parking lot of a carwash. And 15-month-old Noah Dreblow died when his grandfather attempted to move a van a few feet forward so his grandkids could have more room to play basketball in his driveway. “It was seconds – seconds -- and it happened,” said Noah’s mother, Erica Boyer. “Noah loved basketballs. He saw one in the driveway, and he ran after a basketball and my dad had no idea what had happened, didn't see him. He didn’t even feel the bump of hitting him.”
"I can’t see any of them. That’s shocking."Rollins said she suspects the actual number of frontover accidents nationwide is much higher than what her organization has tracked through media and police reports because many frontovers that do not result in a fatality go unreported. “We think of these things as freak accidents, but they’re happening much more often than people think,” she explained. “The worst thing for me is when a parent calls and says ‘Why didn’t you tell me this could happen to me? If only I had known about that front blind zone.’” Because many drivers are unaware of the danger surrounding frontover accidents, 13 Investigates conducted several demonstrations to help illustrate the significant size of front blind zones in large vehicles. Those demonstrations shocked drivers, unaware they could not see objects directly in front of their SUVs.
“Absolutely terrifying” test resultsHaven Hutchens said she and her three children travel a lot, so they love the room and the view inside their spacious 2011 Chevy Tahoe. “I like sitting up higher off the ground, especially navigating through city streets,” the trauma nurse told WTHR. “I don’t feel like I tend to have too many blind spots with it.” Hutchens agreed to participate in a test to determine the size of her front blind zone. With the help of family and neighbors, WTHR lined up children in front of her parked Tahoe, and Hutchens agreed to alert us at the first sign of a child. As she watched one child after another move toward the front of her vehicle to take a seat on the pavement, Hutchens expressed surprise. “I can’t see any of them. That’s shocking,” she said after the fifth child sat in front of her SUV. “That’s super scary,” she added as two more kids joined the line of children. “I still can’t see them.”
Minivans, SUVs and pick-up trucks13 Investigates measured the front blind zones of many popular vehicles, from family sedans and minivans to large SUVs and full-size pickup trucks.
Cameras see what you can’tMore than a decade ago, government regulators took drastic action to address a similar problem: children being run over, injured and killed due to blind zones behind vehicles. Since then, automakers have been installing rear-facing cameras on most of their cars and trucks, and last year those cameras became mandatory on all new vehicles sold in the Unites States. As a result, the number of backover injuries and deaths in the U.S. has plummeted. To combat front blind zones, some automakers are now offering front-facing cameras to help drivers detect hidden objects in front of them. While the number of vehicles with front-camera technology has increased steadily in the past three years, those cameras remain optional equipment on most new vehicles. The vast majority of vehicles currently on the road do not have them.
Preventing another tragedyThinking about front-facing cameras, Erica Boyer pauses to think what might have been if the technology had been installed on the van that struck and killed her son. “I think that could have changed our situation completely,” she said. “I just want [others] to be aware of their surroundings, and don’t ever think it couldn’t happen to you. It can happen in a matter of seconds and it changes your life.” If your vehicle does not have a front camera, KidsAndCars recommends that you walk in front of your vehicle to check for potential dangers before you get in and start the ignition. And the organization said all toddlers should be accounted for any time someone is arriving or leaving your home to reduce the risk of an unattended child accidentally running into the path of a vehicle. “We call it Bye-bye Syndrome. Daddy leaves to run to the store to buy some milk, walks out the front door and a toddler follows behind to say bye-bye. They see daddy but daddy can’t see them, and it happens just that fast,” Fennell said. “They have no concept of the danger, and with so many big vehicles and these big blind zones, it’s something we all need to be thinking about.”
To see the full list of vehicles WTHR compared in the blind zone test, click here.