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Large SUVs could be to blame for an increase in 'frontover' deaths involving children

While the number of "backover" crashes have reduced dramatically, according to federal statistics, the number of children killed when cars roll forward has gone up by more than 60% over the last seven years.

ST. LOUIS — With inventions like the backup camera in cars, you would think the number of children killed in driveways would be lower.

It's not.

While the number of "backover" crashes have reduced dramatically, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of children killed when cars roll forward has gone up by more than 60% over the last seven years.

"And now frontovers have become even more common that backovers. We're seeing more children killed by frontover vehicles," said Amber Rollins.

Rollins is the Director of KidsAndCars.org. She said a big reason why those numbers are getting bigger is that SUVs are, too.

"The hoods are much higher on these newer vehicles which is creating higher blind zones and people really just aren't aware that there's a blind zone in front where they can't see," said Rollins.

But how bad of a blind zone are we talking? We put it to the test.

We gathered up a group of kids, put the parents in the driver's seat and asked them to let us know when they could see a child.

First up, Ryan in a GMC Denali.

It took ten children before he could see even a hair on a child's head.

Next, we tried out Samantha's slightly smaller Chevy Traverse.

It did better by a hair - eight children before Samantha even spotted a little one.

We caught up with both parents a few days later.

"Obviously the kids are small, but even sitting on the ground, it was even more eye opening that there could be that many kids sitting there and really you have no idea," said Ryan Stewart, the dad driving the Denali.

Samantha was still in shock.

"Because I really didn't think my car was that high up. The front of it looks like it curves down enough to be able to see them sooner," said Graveson, who was driving the Traverse.

So what should parents do to make sure tragedy never strikes? Amber said it all starts with supervision.

"What parents can do at home, is make sure the child is directly supervised, I mean hands on the child, anytime someone may be arriving at your house or leaving," said Rollins.

Possible Solutions

The answer may also lie in new technology.

A number of automakers, including Kia, are offering a new technology feature called the "surround view monitor."

"It's designed to make backing up and maneuvering easier than just using a back up camera on it's own," said Jonathan Hawkins of Suntrup Kia. "The 360 camera uses four cameras around the sides of the car. It'll show you the regular backup camera, and then a top down view from above, a birds eye view if you like, of the vehicle."

The primary function is to help you when you're backing up, but it will continue to work driving at slow speeds when you put it in drive.

"Until we hit maybe 5 mph and then it cuts off," said Hawkins.

The birds-eye view comes from four sneakily positioned cameras.

"One in the front grill, one in the back and two in the side mirrors," he said.

Those cameras that might be able to spot precious cargo.

Much like the backup camera, Amber wants to see the 360 camera eventually become standard and not just a luxury add on.

"It allows you see those areas that we've been talking about where small children could be hiding and you wouldn't be able to see them," said Rollins.

Right now, that 360 camera only comes as an add-on to high end cars, which means it will cost you a little bit more.

For the Kia Optima, we're told that extra safety package costs about $3800 more.

The two vehicles we tested were General Motors SUVs but this is an issue that is industry wide. That being said, we did reach out to GM for this story.

“While new technologies, such as Surround Vision Camera, which are available on several GM vehicles, can assist drivers, they do not remove the driver from the responsibility of the safe operation of their vehicle. GM encourages drivers to take the necessary steps required to assure they are fully aware of their surroundings before proceeding in a safe manner.“ – GM Spokesperson

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