The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recently responded to a request by Congress to take actions to investigate and prevent “frontover” car accidents, in which vehicles with large blind spots strike and run over children. In an August 25, 2022 letter, NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff told US Senator Richard Blumenthal that the agency “is committed to investigating these circumstances and is dedicated to promoting vehicles, technologies, and behaviors that keep our children safe.”
Cliff’s letter was in response to an August 5th letter from Blumenthal, in which the Connecticut senator encouraged Cliff to provide information about frontover incidents and what steps the NHTSA is taking to reduce them. Noting that in 2007 Congress required the NHTSA to develop a rule concerning rear visibility standards, Blumenthal argued that a similar rule for front visibility could save lives and prevent injuries. And noting that while some vehicle manufacturers offer front visibility technology, “they offer it only on their more expensive, upgraded models or for an additional fee. Safety is not—and never should be—a premium feature only available to those who can afford it; it should be the default.”
In his response, Cliff said that the NHTSA would “initiate a review of the size and scope of frontover crashes, beginning with collecting more data.” He added that the NHTSA’s Non-Traffic Surveillance System will soon release data concerning non-traffic car crash injuries and fatalities between 2016 and 2020, per Blumenthal’s request for such data. He also noted that it’s difficult to confirm frontover crash counts “due to the challenges law enforcement faces in distinguishing these crashes from other forward moving vehicle impacts with non-motorists and to the locations where these crashes often occur.” For instance, he elaborated, law enforcement would not consider a crash in which a driver turns into a driveway and strikes a child to be a frontover; however, it would consider that incident a frontover “if that driver struck the child while pulling out of a garage (having backed into the garage).” This issue is compounded by the fact, he said, that frontover incidents often take place outside of public traffic routes, in driveways and parking lots that law enforcement agencies “may not report… using a crash report.” He noted finally that state-level crash reports do not identify frontover incidents.
More information on the NHTSA’s response to a request for information about frontover car crashes is available via Cliff’s letter.
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