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The Scoop

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'Spot the Tot' tips can save a child

Statement as issued Tuesday by Safe Kids Allen County:

In that rush to get to the store before it closes, or in the frenzy of trying to get to the airport before a flight leaves, drivers often focus on what is in the car and not what is around it. Safe Kids Allen County encourages anyone driving a vehicle to walk completely around it to check for children before getting in and starting the engine. This applies even to drivers who do not have children but may live in a neighborhood where kids are present.

Parents and caregivers can follow these tips to help make sure children remain safe around cars:

• Before getting in the car and starting the engine, walk all the way around the parked vehicle to make sure children are not under or behind it. When possible, engage older kids as helpers to accomplish this.

• Use a "Spot the Tot" window sticker as a reminder to walk completely around the vehicle before every trip. Contact Safe Kids Allen County for information on how to obtain one of these stickers.

• Ensure that young children are always accompanied by an adult when getting in and out of a vehicle.

• Identify a safe play area for children to use far away from parked or moving vehicles.

• Identify a safe spot for children to go when nearby vehicles are about to move.

• When walking near moving vehicles, in driveways, in parking lots or on sidewalks, make sure to firmly hold the hand of each child that is with you.

• Avoid using driveways as play areas if moving cars have access entering or exiting these areas.

• Pay close attention to cameras or sensors available in many vehicles when backing.

"No matter how important it is at that moment for you to get to your destination on time, taking a five-second walk around your car to make sure that children are not in harm's way could save your family and your child from a lifetime of physical and emotional pain," says Carmen DeBruce, coordinator, Safe Kids Allen County.

Below is an excerpt from a letter shared recently with Safe Kids Allen County:

Several weeks ago, my parents were in town for a visit. My father, against our advice after a near miss or two, decided to park in the driveway directly behind my sport in the garage. Well, the next morning at 6:30 as I was backing out – focused on my coffee, the radio and my cell phone – I backed into my parents' relatively new car with my extremely large SUV. It crushed their front bumper and destroyed the headlights.

More than $3,000 in damage later, I was asking myself how this could have happened. I had a back-up camera, back-up warning censors and mirrors. And I'd paid thousands extra to have these safety features, yet, I was in a hurry, ignored them and caused harm.

The accident happened because I was doing something so routine in my everyday life that I disregarded all of the safety warnings and proceeded anyway. I viewed the situation as having minimal to no risk, so I wasn't as focused as I should have been. I always look for cars and children at the end of the driveway, but I never look right outside of the garage. What if my 3-year-old son had slipped outside and was behind my vehicle?

Thankfully, cars can be repaired. Lives, however, and much more fragile.

A national study in 2007 estimated that there were 5,000 injuries and 205 deaths to children under age 14 as a result of being hit by a vehicle in a driveway or parking area. These incidences are known as "backovers" or "frontovers," depending on direction.

"We believe these injuries and deaths are preventable as too many result from a driver not seeing children who might be playing, running after or standing near their vehicle," says DeBruce. "What is truly tragic about these stories is that the drivers are often friends or even family members."

To learn more about keeping your children safe in and around cars, visit SafeKids.org.

The Spot the Tot program, created by Safe Kids Utah, was extended to all Safe Kids coalitions in 2006 and is a part of the Safe Kids Buckle Up Program, the comprehensive child passenger safety program of Safe Kids Worldwide. In partnership with General Motors since 1997, Safe Kids Buckle Up has inspected nearly 1.5 million car seats; held approximately 77,500 car seat checkup events around the country; donated more than 530,000 car seats to families in need and educated more than 21 million parents and caregivers. In addition, the program has created innovative activities that go beyond crash protection by educating families on other dangers children face in and around vehicles such as hyperthermia and backover/frontover risks.

Safe Kids Allen County is a coalition of local organizations dedicated to preventing accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. The lead organization for Safe Kids Allen County is Lutheran Children's Hospital. Safe Kids Allen County is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Allen County was founded in 1999.

Send items for The Scoop to jgnews@jg.net.

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