Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
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Tonya Papanikolas reporting A tragic accident claims the life of a West Valley City toddler, and brings to light how unsafe backing out of a driveway can be.
The accident happened around 9 last night as the toddler's uncle backed out of the driveway. He apparently didn't see the little girl, and ran over her.
Today 18 month old Jessica Motzkus' picture adorns the front of the house, with the words "we love and miss you."
Family, friends and neighbors have also created a small memorial to the little girl on the front lawn.
They've brought stuffed animals, flowers and posters to lay in honor of the toddler... whose death has hit close to home.
Pat Mumford, Neighbor: "I have small children at home and I think, that could have been us."
Many people realize it's an accident that can happen when you least expect it. But there are some things you can do to avoid a tragedy like this.
An accident like this is something no family ever wants to deal with. But little kids are often in areas a car can't see, especially when they're playing on the ground.
The case in West Valley did happen with a van, which is higher off the ground. But we found today, it's not just vans and larger SUVs that pose a problem.
West Valley police say several children were playing outside while a man was inside visiting family members. When it was time for the man to leave, he backed up his white company van and didn't see his 18-month-old niece behind the car.
Sgt. Steve Angell, West Valley Police Dept.: "From what I've gathered, it looks as if she was completely in a blind spot and there was no way he could have seen her as he was backing up."
Jessica Motzkus was flown by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Medical Center. But she didn't make it through the night. A safety group called Kids and Cars says last year, at least 72 children in the U.S. were killed in similar accidents.
Sgt. Shawn Judd, Utah Highway Patrol: "Probably the best thing you can do is to simply walk around your vehicle and make sure the area is clear, especially if you're in an area where there is small children."
So how far can you see behind your car? And how big is that blind spot area? We decided to put these questions to the test.
As I sat in an SUV, Sgt. Judd placed a stack of cones two feet high behind the car. He moved them until I could see the top of them... and then we measured the distance to the bumper.
Sgt. Shawn Judd, Utah Highway Patrol: "It's 21 feet."
Then we did the same thing in a car. And we were surprised by the results.
Sgt. Shawn Judd, Utah Highway Patrol: "It's 22 and a half feet."
And then there's the issue of the blind spot.
Sgt. Shawn Judd, Utah Highway Patrol: "There's just areas that you're not gonna be able to see. So it shows you just have to be very aware of what's behind you before you start backing up."
The position you have in a car can also help a little.
It's best to put one hand on the seat next to you and twist to look over your shoulder. This gives you an additional few inches of vision out the back window.
Of course, each car is different so it's best to know where your kids are at all times.