By Diana Zoga
The NBC 5 Responds team is shedding light on a blind zone in front of many popular vehicles. A Texas mom said it lead to devastating consequences for her family. Read on for their story and what safety advocates want drivers to know.
“IT HAPPENS SO FAST”
Spunky, sweet and sassy is how Jenesee Beaudoin describes her two-year-old daughter, Briley Kaye Beaudoin. “She was very much not afraid to use her voice,” Beaudoin said. A few weeks after Briley turned two, there would be an accident in a familiar place: the driveway of a family home. It was the day after Christmas and Beaudoin was at her parents’ house in San Antonio, preparing to move her SUV from the garage so she could pack it up and head home. “Just made the blanket statement, I'm going to go and move my car over,” Beaudoin recalled. The house was full of people when Beaudoin stepped outside. She didn’t know Briley silently followed her. “The door didn't shut all the way,” said Beaudoin. “We have the chimes and all of that and the door just didn't shut all the way.” Beaudoin got into the SUV and "walked to my car, started it, rolled forward and I felt like I went off a curb. That's how fast it happened.” “I ran to the back of the car because I didn't know what it was. There she was, lying in between my tires,” said Beaudoin. Briley didn’t survive. “It happens so fast,” Beaudoin said.
“THE LARGER THE VEHICLE, THE LARGER THE BLIND ZONE”
Briley is just one of the children killed or hurt because the driver didn’t see them in what’s known as a front-over accident. “You drive through the suburbs today and every house has an SUV, minivan or pickup truck. The larger the vehicle, the larger the blind zone,” said Amber Rollins, director at the nonprofit Kids and Car Safety. Kids and Car Safety counted 821 children killed in the U.S. between 1990 and 2021. Texas ranked number one with 97 kids killed. According to the latest available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 366 deaths and 15,000 injuries in 2015 due to forward-moving vehicles. All of them occur on private property like driveways. “People truly think that if there's a child standing in front of their car, they could see them and they can't. They don't believe you until you show them,” Rollins said. This is what our colleagues at NBC 4 in Washington D.C. did in a demonstration of the potential risk of one SUV. The I-Team sat children in a line in front of a secured SUV until the driver indicated she could see a child. The driver said she didn’t see any kids until the tenth child sat in front of the vehicle. The I-Team measured the blind zone in front of the SUV at 16 feet.
NBC 5 RESPONDS
By 2018, all American-made cars were required to have backup cameras, but there is no law requiring front cameras. According to Michael Brooks with the Center for Auto Safety, few manufacturers include front cameras or 360-degree cameras as standard equipment. Most are found in luxury vehicles. “I think the part that frustrates me most is seeing safety technology sold as a luxury when everyone should have it,” said Brooks. Beaudoin said the SUV she was driving during the accident had a backup camera, but no camera for the front. She said she believes a 360 camera or pedestrian sensors would have made a difference. “I would have been able to see her in the 360 bird's eye view. The vehicle would have stopped and she would be here today,” said Beaudoin. This Christmas will mark six years without Briley. Beaudoin said she hopes Briley’s story will help save others, “My goal is just to do the best I can, spread our story, be a good mom to my son and live life. That's why God put us here and hopefully, she's proud.”
LAWMAKER TAKES NOTE
After our colleagues at NBC 4 in Washington D.C. aired their demonstration, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut sent a letter to NHTSA calling for updated front over data and information on what the federal agency is doing to prevent front rollovers. Senator Blumenthal’s office shared a response from NHTSA saying the agency is reviewing front-over-blind zone crashes. Senator Blumenthal’s office also said he is drafting legislation, similar to rear visibility requirements, mandating front-facing devices like cameras or sensors. In an email to NBC 5 Responds, NHTSA wrote, “Advancing pedestrian safety is a priority for the agency, and eliminating pedestrian fatalities is critical. As the body of research on this topic grows, NHTSA has initiated an exhaustive literature review of these studies by independent researchers to better understand the potential effects of vehicle size in various crash scenarios and injury types; identify research gaps and potential next steps. The department believes that no crash is acceptable and is working cross-functionally, guided by the National Roadway Safety Strategy to reduce crashes and, along with them, serious injuries and fatalities. The National Roadway Safety Strategy also calls on state and local governments, the private sector, including OEMs, and advocates to work together to meet this crisis of traffic fatalities.”
Kids and Car Safety offers safety tips to help keep young kids safe. Drivers don’t have to wait for a new vehicle to add extra cameras. Consumers can purchase a backup camera, some don’t require professional installation. There are also cameras that work in the front. Consider other layers of security if you have small kids. Install doorknob covers and locks at the top of exterior doors. Add alarms to sound when a door opens. Before leaving the home, verbally and visually confirm all children are with an adult who is actively supervising them. Walk around your vehicle and scan the area for kids or pets before moving the vehicle. Keep landscaping trimmed around the driveway. When out, never let young children walk through parking lots. Use a stroller, or shopping cart, or carry them. Let caretakers know. Holding a small child’s hand doesn’t prevent a child from darting away. Be aware of ‘bye-bye syndrome’ - when a child follows a parent or loved one into the driveway.
You can read Kids and Car Safety’s fact sheet on front overs here.
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