In July 2022, Volkswagen announced a voluntary recall of more than 43,000 vehicles due to a software problem that could fail to display an image from the backup camera when the vehicle was reversing. This flaw, which the company says can be fixed with a software update, could potentially put these vehicles in violation of a federal vehicle safety requirement mandating that new cars must come standard with rear visibility technology.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), before the federal rule mandating rear visibility technology went into effect in 2018, at least 183 people were killed and 15,000 injured each year by vehicles backing over them.
What are backover accidents?
A backover accident occurs when a vehicle strikes a person while reversing. Here are some common causes of backover accidents:
- Limited Sight: A driver backing up may not be able to see someone who is directly behind a vehicle and is not visible through the rear window.
- Product Malfunction: If a vehicle is equipped with a backup alarm, but the alarm is not functioning, people in the area around the vehicle will not be alerted that the vehicle is backing up.
- Distraction: A driver can be distracted by buckling their seat belt, talking with a passenger, or using their cell phone, and they may not properly check their surroundings before backing up.
- Noise: Workers in a noisy environment, such as a warehouse or industrial facility, may not hear an alarm sounding from a nearby vehicle while the vehicle is backing up.
- Failure to Check Surroundings: If a driver fails to properly check around the entirety of a vehicle before backing up, they could hit someone in the vehicle’s reversing path.
- Driver Error: A driver might become confused between the accelerator and brake pedals of their vehicle, which can lead to inadvertently reversing faster than intended or failing to stop a vehicle.
- Wrong Gear: If a driver intends to drive forward, but accidentally shifts into reverse instead of drive, they can suddenly reverse into the path of an unsuspecting person.
Preventing backover accidents
As devastating as backover accidents can be, they are preventable. Here are some ways to help avoid them:
- Look around. Always walk around a vehicle and look underneath it before getting in and starting it up. If there are children nearby, take note of how many and make sure that you can see all of them as you back up.
- Listen carefully. Roll the windows down, turn the radio off, and keep the windows rolled down as you reverse your vehicle so you can hear what’s happening around you.
- Proceed with caution. Always back up slowly, cautiously, with complete control over the vehicle, and be prepared to stop at a moment’s notice if necessary.
- Don’t use the driveway as a playground. Don’t allow your driveway to become a play area for children. Teach them never to play near, under, inside, or behind a vehicle.
- Use spotters in the workplace. Spotters can prevent individuals from getting hit by vehicles backing up in a work environment.
- Use cameras and sensors, but don’t rely on them. Tests have found that cameras and sensors mounted on vehicles are extremely helpful in preventing backover accidents. However, they are not foolproof. Detection results can vary according to the type, position, and number of sensors and/or cameras; the number and location of people behind a vehicle; weather conditions; and the slope of the road or driveway. Nevertheless, here are some systems that are available to assist drivers in backing up safely:
- Radar or ultrasonic-based proximity sensors: systems that utilize electromagnetic waves to alert drivers of an object or someone in their path as they back up.
- Electromagnetic proximity detection systems: systems that utilize electromagnetic fields to detect ferromagnetic objects, such as a metal tag, to alert a driver that an object or person associated with the tag is within proximity of the vehicle.
- Rearview cameras: cameras installed at the back of a vehicle (such as the ones recalled by Volkswagen) that can help a driver see any person or object directly in in the vehicle’s path while backing up.
Harris Lowry Manton, LLP, has extensive experience with product liability cases related to automobiles. For example, in 2009, we helped Jessica and Ken Mundy recover $40 million from Ford Motor Company after the transmission in Jessica’s Ford Explorer malfunctioned and ran her over, causing her to sustain a fractured spine and be rendered a paraplegic. Our lawyers showed that Ford had known for decades that their transmissions had a defect known as “false park,” but Ford ignored the problem until it was too late.
If you were seriously injured in an accident caused by a defective product, call Harris Lowry Manton, LLP at 404-998-8847 (in Atlanta) or 912-417-3774 (in Savannah) or complete our contact form to set up your free initial case evaluation today.
Jed Manton is committed to representing individuals and business that have been harmed by the actions of others. With a solid track record, Jed has helped numerous clients who have been seriously injured or who have lost a loved one obtain justice, while holding the wrongdoer accountable.
Read more about Jed D. Manton here.