TEXAS VIEW: Watch out for kids (and cars)!

By The Lufkin News Writer

As Americans continue to favor trucks and SUVs over sedans, it’s not your imagination if the number of passenger cars on the road seems to be shrinking, especially here in pickup-happy Texas. It’s also not your imagination if, when driving a car, you sometimes feel invisible to the drivers of the hulking vehicles surrounding you.

One member of our editorial board has twice been backed into in a fast food drive-thru by trucks whose drivers, for whatever reason, suddenly changed their minds and threw it into reverse. In our increasingly oblivious society, it’s quite possible those drivers never bothered to look to see if anyone was in line behind them. It’s also equally plausible that a typical four-door sedan simply can’t be seen in the blind spot of some of these behemoths.

Attempting to find a parking space for the market steer show at our recent Angelina County Fair only underscored the size difference between cars, trucks and SUVs, as everything that looked like an open parking spot to that same editorial board member was usually a space occupied by a car absolutely dwarfed by the herculean vehicles on either side of it.

Luckily, the back-up cameras installed in many newer vehicles do a great job of eliminating the visibility problems all drivers face. But for those of us driving later models, we simply have to do our best to look out for our fellow motorists and be aware of our surroundings. Just as we all do our best to be mindful of the motorcyclists and bicyclists who share our roads, truck and SUV drivers need to look out for cars!

But these bigger vehicles also are taking a tragic toll when it comes to kids.

“The problem has gotten worse with the increased popularity of SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans as family vehicles,” Mike Quincy, an automotive

expert with Consumer Reports, said in an NBC News article. “Some of the blind spots are incredible.”

Consumer Reports measured blind zones behind hundreds of vehicles, using short and tall drivers, and found the following range for each category:

  • Sedans: 12 to 24 feet
  • Minivans: 15 to 26 feet
  • Sport Utility Vehicles: 13 to 29 feet
  • Pickup trucks: 23 to 35 feet With some large pickups, the article noted, the blind zone can be longer than a driveway. And according to consumer group Kids and Cars, as many as 62 children could be in that blind zone and the driver would never know it.

One thing many truck and SUV drivers like most about their vehicles is the increased visibility that enables them to see farther down the road over the roofs of other cars. But that perk comes at a price: What many of these drivers can’t see is what’s close behind them, and when backing out of a parking spot or driveway, that could be a person — often a small child.

With summer approaching and the school year coming to an end, there will be more vehicles on the road and more kids at play in driveways and streets.

Outside of a rearview camera, the following tips from Consumer Reports offer the best defense against back-over accidents:

  • Walk around your vehicle before you back up to ensure no one is in harm’s way.
  • Drive slowly when backing up, and keep the stereo volume low or off so that you can respond to warnings or sounds.
  • If kids are in the area, make sure you can see all of them before driving, or ask an adult to monitor the area around the vehicle as you back up.

These extra steps can save a life, so let’s all look out for kids, as well as cars, while traveling the roads this summer.