I almost ran over my daughter.

It happened a few years ago, before she started walking, but the memory is still fresh in my mind. Somehow, she’d crawled out of the house, and I didn’t see her until I’d backed my car out of the garage. I’d come within inches of crushing her.

Let me tell you, there’s no worse feeling — none at all — than that sickening combination of relief and dread.

Thank God, I missed her! What if I hadn’t missed her?

Well, now the government wants to do something about the issue, and I, for one, think it’s about time. The Department of Transportation today proposed a new safety regulation that would help eliminate blind zones behind vehicles that can hide the presence of pedestrians, especially young children and the elderly.

“There is no more tragic accident than for a parent or caregiver to back out of a garage or driveway and kill or injure an undetected child playing behind the vehicle,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The changes we are proposing today will help drivers see into those blind zones directly behind vehicles to make sure it is safe to back up.” (There’s more from DOT, including an interesting video, on its blog.)

The proposed rule was required by Congress as part of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007. Two-year old Cameron Gulbransen, for whom the Act is named, was killed when his father accidentally backed over him in the family’s driveway.

The proposal, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, would expand the required field of view for all passenger cars, pickup trucks, minivans, buses and low-speed vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of up to 10,000 pounds so that drivers can see directly behind the vehicle when the vehicle’s transmission is in reverse.

Automobile manufacturers will probably install rear-mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays to meet the proposed standards, according to the government.

To meet the requirements of the proposed rule, 10 percent of new vehicles must comply by Sept. 2012, 40 percent by Sept. 2013 and 100 percent by Sept. 2014.

Adds NHTSA Administrator David Strickland,

The steps we are taking today will help reduce back-over fatalities and injuries not only to children, but to the elderly, and other pedestrians. And while these changes will make a difference, drivers must remember that no technology can, or should, replace full attention and vigilance when backing up. Always know where your children are before you start your car and make sure you check that there is no one behind you before you back up.

This isn’t an isolated problem. NHTSA estimates that, on average, 292 fatalities and 18,000 injuries occur each year as a result of back-over crashes involving all vehicles. Of these, 228 fatalities involve light vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

Two particularly vulnerable populations — children and the elderly — are affected most. Approximately 44 percent of fatalities involving light vehicles are children under five–an unusually high percentage for any particular type of crash. In addition, 33 percent of fatalities involving light vehicles are elderly people 70 years of age or older, according to the government.

Here’s what you can do to prevent these tragic accidents now:

Comment in support of the the proposed rule. You can do that here.

Look before you back up. Technology alone won’t solve this problem. Always look before you back up.

Warn your kids. If you have young kids, warn them about the dangers of playing near a parked car. It sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised by how many parents never talk to their children about the hazards.

After almost rolling over my little girl, I made sure all the kids were strapped into the car before I turned the ignition. Thank goodness, we’ve never had another close call.

I imagine there will be some who think this requirement is just another intrusion by government. Then again, they said that about seatbelts, too.

(Photo: gamma r ay/Flickr Creative Commons)