Driveway Crashes

Serious and Common, but Preventable

Some of the most devastating motor vehicle crashes involving children happen in the driveway. The injuries children sustain are often severe and the parents or other adults involved are left to struggle with terrible guilt and emotional distress.

At Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, 64 children were admitted with injuries sustained in driveway crashes over a 13-year period beginning in 1986.

Driveway injuries can be prevented with greater awareness of the danger, simple safety rules and vigilance on the part of adults.

“Injuries that occur in the driveway tend to have major emotional ramifications because typically the injuries are caused by a parent or a close relative,” said Henri R. Ford, MD, chief of Pediatric Surgery and director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “There is a tremendous amount of guilt and many times the injuries are devastating or fatal.”

Driveway-related injuries most often result from children being struck by a motor vehicle driven by an adult who doesn’t see them, from children falling out of a vehicle, or when a child, left unsupervised, shifts an idle vehicle out of gear and sets it in motion.

Victims Usually Young Children

Injury characteristics and their victims are reported in a study of children admitted to Children’s Hospital with driveway-related injuries from 1986 to 1999. The study was conducted by Dr. Ford and his colleagues.

  • The mean age of the children injured was a little more than 3 years old.
  • More children under 2 years of age were injured when they were struck by a vehicle driven by an adult.
  • More children age 5 or older were involved in crashes that resulted when an unsupervised child was behind the wheel of the vehicle.

Injuries Are Often Serious

At Children’s Hospital, the injury severity score (ISS) of children suffering driveway injuries was 10 – significantly higher than the average 6.77 ISS for all pediatric trauma patients. The ISS is used to classify the extent of the injuries for trauma patients.

The study reports that musculoskeletal injuries are the most common. About 56 percent of the children in the hospital study were admitted with broken bones or other musculoskeletal injuries. About one-third of the children suffered head injuries and about one-third had chest injuries.

Four children, or 6 percent, died from the injuries sustained in driveway crashes.

Large Vehicles Pose Risk

Parents always need to be aware of the dangers of backing out of a driveway where children may be present. But the study suggests parents driving light trucks and SUVs must be particularly aware, due to the poor backward visibility many of those vehicles afford the driver.

Light trucks and SUVs were involved in more than half of the driveway incidents that resulted in children being admitted to Children’s Hospital with injuries.

An Ounce of Prevention

Simple precautions can go a long way toward reducing the risk of driveway motor vehicle crashes.

  • It is best if the driveway is not used as a playground.
  • If you allow children to play in the driveway, block it off to prevent cars from pulling in.
  • When backing out of driveway, know where every child is. Count heads to be sure.
  • If you have a light truck or SUV, install extended mirrors to improve your view of what is behind the vehicle.
  • Never leave the car running.
  • Never leave the keys in the ignition, even if the car is not running.

“We have to be really compulsive about safety,” says Dr. Ford.