Community

Local task force instills kids-cars safety

Drivers may think they can see everything when looking in their rearview mirrors, but that’s not always the case.

Every week in the United States, at least 50 children are backed over in driveways and parking lots, according to KIDS AND CARS, an organization that works to prevent non-traffic motor vehicle-related deaths among children. Two young children were killed in Kitsap County in the past seven months alone.

“It brings to light the possibility that it could happen to you,” said Carolyn Pence, Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force coordinator. “They’re all unfortunate incidents to occur and they could be prevented.”

Pence said there are a variety of resources available for parents, children and all drivers to learn more about keeping children safe in and around motor vehicles. KIDS AND CARS said nearly 50 percent of non-traffic child deaths occur when a driver backs over him or her in a driveway or parking lot.

“There could be anything behind you. The dog, the cat, there could be anything behind you when you’re backing out,” Pence said. “I think some people just assume if somebody’s behind me I’m going to see them, but that’s not always the case.”

Pence said drivers should walk all the way around their parked vehicles to check for children, pets or toys before putting the vehicle in motion. She said the check takes a few seconds and could potentially save a child’s life.

“Do that check around your car. It takes five seconds,” she said. “Everybody should always just do a quick walk around their cars.”

Pence showed a Kitsap Community Resources Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) class Feb. 9 in Silverdale just how hard it can be to see behind a vehicle.

The 13 3- to 5-year-olds all stood behind a large SUV while Pence sat in the driver’s seat. She could not see any of the children when they were standing in pairs, but when they lined up single-file behind the vehicle, she couldn’t see the first eight children out of the 13 from her rearview mirror.

“It’s just amazing the number of kids that could play behind your car,” Pence said. “It’s the younger children who are under 4 who are at risk because of their size, but older kids are at risk as well.”

Pence said parents and caregivers should teach children not to play in or around vehicles and that if the child is not in the vehicle when it’s put in motion, he or she should be instructed to stand a safe distance away from the vehicle.

“Teach your children not to play or be around cars ... ‘Don’t be around a car unless mommy or daddy or the caregiver is with you,’” she said.

Pence said organizations like KIDS AND CARS and Safe Kids Worldwide all provide valuable information about how to protect children in and around motor vehicles.

“It’s not just teaching parents, but it’s teaching kids,” Pence said.

She said the Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force and Safe Kids’ local chapter, based at the Mary Bridge Childrens Health Center in Silverdale, have materials on hand and will do presentations about vehicle safety.

“We could do a whole presentation for a class,” Pence said. “We always have the materials available for people too.”

For more information, visit KIDS AND CARS Web site at www.kidsandcars.org or Safe Kids Web site at www.safekids.org. Safe Kids Kitsap County is located at 1780 NW Myhre Road, Suite G-220 in Silverdale. Coordinator Michele Jennings can be reached at (360) 662-1198.

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