Preventing driveway tragedies

by | July 11, 2018

Last year, there were a number of cases in the US highlighting such tragedies. How can we prevent them?


Last September in Havertown, Pennsylvania, US, an 89-year-old man ran over his wife and daughter in the driveway of their home. The incident took place at around 9.30am when the driver mistook the gas pedal for the brake pedal and proceeded to back into and over his wife and daughter. The man’s 62-year-old daughter was airlifted to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital with head and chest injuries, while his wife was taken to the same hospital with serious injuries to her lower torso.

And in July last year in Utah, US, a woman in her 90s got out of the family car to open the garage. Her husband hit the car’s gas pedal instead of the brake pedal and ran over his wife killing her, and then crashed into the home.

This article is not an attack on older drivers. We’ve all heard more than enough stories of younger parents backing over their children (or family pet) in the family’s driveway, illustrating that driveway tragedies are certainly not unique to any one particular age group. However, this article will focus on the more mature driving population.

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) in the US, there are at least 500,000 backing accidents every year in the US. Of those, 15,000 include some type of injury and approximately 210 deaths, mostly children under five (31 percent of all fatalities) and elderly people aged 70 and over (26 percent). Sadly, a whopping 70 percent of these tragedies occur with a parent or family member behind the wheel.


Some tips

The two stories above highlighted above serve as very vivid examples of how quickly things can go wrong, even in our own driveways. Following is a non-inclusive list of safety tips, broken down for both the driver and the pedestrian’s perspectives:

Tips for the driver:

  • Park strategically the day before; practice good “defensive parking” strategies.
  • Don’t back up unless absolutely necessary; advance planning can reduce the amount of required backing. It has been said that if cars were made to backup, the driver’s seat would face the back window.
  • Always back up slowly; expect obstacles (plan for the worst, hope for the best).
  • Consider rolling down a window and turning off the radio so warnings can be heard.
  • Make a personal rule that no one gets into or out of your car unless it’s in park.
  • Make a personal rule that no one walks in front of or behind your car unless it’s in park.
  • Make eye contact with the pedestrian as he or she approaches your vehicle.
  • Be aware of your vehicle’s blind spots, and compensate accordingly.
  • Just like school buses do loading and unloading students, don’t begin a driving movement until the passenger has cleared the area of your vehicle.
  • Take your time!

Tips for the pedestrian:

  •  Make eye contact with the driver as you approach the vehicle.
  • Have an out; assume the worse is going to happen.
  • Do NOT walk in front or behind the vehicle until you know it is safe to do so; be a good, defensive pedestrian.
  • Take your time!


** The information in the above article is from a US organisation called Keeping Us Safe and has been used with permission.

(** PHOTO CERDIT: Keeping Us Safe) 




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