Driveway death hardly rare
Tragedies like a child run over in Kahaluu have led to calls for new vehicle standards
The death of a 1-year-old Kahaluu boy who was run over by the family's minivan as his father backed up the vehicle has shocked neighbors, but a mainland advocacy group says the circumstances are all too common.
"Two children are killed every week from being backed over, and 48 a week are injured," said Janette Fennell, a mom who is founder and president of Kansas-based Kids and Cars.
The boy, identified yesterday by the city Medical Examiner's Office as Aukahi Mainaale, was struck at about 9 a.m. Thursday when his 30-year-old father reversed his 1997 Chrysler minivan in their Mapele Place driveway.
Fennell said most victims of such accidents are between 12 and 23 months old, and a parent or close relative is the driver in more than 70 percent of these cases.
Kids and Cars is pushing a bill that proposes the federal government set vehicle safety standards including a rear visibility standard that gives drivers a means of detecting a person or object behind the vehicle.
With more vans, trucks and sport utility vehicles, "the blind zone has gotten larger and larger," Fennell said. "That's why we've seen such an increase with the number of children killed."
The bill proposed by Kids and Cars did not provide specifics on what drivers would use to detect an object or person behind the vehicle, whether better mirrors, sensors or cameras, but Fennell said something needs to be done.
Some vehicles already come equipped with such devices.
Although the bill sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., died this session, Fennell is optimistic it will go further next year with Hawaii Democratic Sen. Dan Inouye as the new chairman of the Commerce Committee.
Inouye's chief of staff in Honolulu said the senator will take a serious look at the bill.
In the Kahuluu accident, police said the father felt an impact, continued to back up, then stopped when he saw his son on the ground. Police are still investigating the accident.
The neighborhood is rural, with mostly two-acre farm lots. Many of the driveways are narrow and dirt or gravel, blending into yards.
"I have a son, and I can't imagine something so tragic right before Christmas," said neighbor Jeff Preble.
"I think it's a tragedy, it just gives me the chills," said one woman who lives nearby. "That dad has to live with that the rest of his life. It can happen so fast."
Children are not the only victims in such accidents. On Oct. 27, an elderly man was run over on the sidewalk of Dillingham Boulevard by a GMC Sierra pickup truck whose driver reversed and failed to notice he had hit someone until he was flagged down.