Consumer Reports demonstrates dangers of ‘frontover’ crashes, hopes for changes

As pickup trucks and large SUVs grow in size, so does the risk of what’s known as “frontover” accidents. Drivers can hit people directly in front of them because of dangerous blind zones just past the hood.

Consumer Reports is now demonstrating the danger, hoping it will show the need for technology to help prevent frontover crashes.

Since 2018, backup cameras have been required on all new cars -- something that was influenced by Consumer Reports’ testing of rear visibility.

“Backup cameras have saved lives by giving us all that additional view when we are moving backward, now we need to shift the focus to the safety in front of the vehicle,” said Jennifer Stockburger, Director of Operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center.

The most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in 2020 there were 526 deaths and 10,114 frontover injuries from forward-moving vehicles.

And Consumer Reports warns: a disproportionate number of frontover victims are children. According to Kids and Cars, about 81% of victims are 6 and under.

Stockburger and a driver demonstrated the blind zones just past the hood:

“We are going to use Mr. Bear to simulate a small child. You let me know when you can see him from the driver’s seat. Can you see him now?” asked Stockburger.

“No!” replied the driver.

“Anything now?” asked Stockburger after moving the stuffed bear further away.

“I can just see his ears,” the driver answered.

“What we’re looking at here is about 15 feet ahead of that vehicle,” Stockburger explained as she measured from the front of the vehicle to where the stuffed bear was placed.

“Wow that’s a big distance!” the driver said.

“And again, you are only seeing the top of his head!” added Stockburger.

Consumer Reports wants drivers of these larger trucks and SUVs to know the danger.

“There’s already so many of these large vehicles on the roads that awareness has to be part of it. If you are driving a large vehicle, maybe walk around the vehicle, or make sure all kids in the area are in your line of sight before that vehicle starts to move,” Stockburger said.

There is currently no law requiring vehicles to have front cameras or sensors, however, there was a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate late last year by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the “STOP Frontovers Act” requiring certain vehicles to be equipped with technology that enables drivers to detect and respond to objects in front of their vehicles. While no action was taken before last year’s session ended, Blumenthal’s office confirms to News4JAX he plans to reintroduce it.

“Frontovers are tragically killing and injuring children, demanding Congressional action. My STOP Frontovers Act requires all car manufacturers to install technology like cameras or sensors to help detect small kids or pets in front of the car and calls on NHTSA to improve data collection and reporting of these incidents,” Blumenthal said in a statement Wednesday to News4JAX. “I will be reintroducing this measure and pushing for its swift passage to put an end to frontovers—preventing more families from suffering this horrific heartbreak.”