LOS ANGELES — Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin died Sunday, June 19, after his car rolled backwards and pinned him against a brick column and a fence, killing him, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. His death reveals a bigger issue with car safety and how common deaths related to backover crashes are in the U.S.
The 27-year-old was reportedly on his way to a rehearsal and when he didn’t show up his friends went to his house and found him dead in the driveway, according to Media Relations Officer Jane Kim.
Yelchin played Chekov in the most recent Star Trek series starting in 2009. Fellow actors, including Zachary Quinto who plays Spock, one of the lead characters, paid tribute to Yelchin’s life on Instagram.
LAPD reports that Yelchin was alone when he died, and momentarily got out of his car when it rolled into him. News broke Monday that the model of Jeep that killed Yelchin was recalled earlier this year, according to the New York Daily News. Fiat Chrysler, maker of the Jeep model, announced it wouldinvestigate the fatal crash, Reuters reports.
In 2014 and 2015, Fiat Chrysler recalled its Jeep Grand Cherokees for an issue with the shifting mechanism. Drivers thought that they were in “park” but they were not.
“Drivers erroneously concluding that their vehicle’s transmission is in the ‘PARK’ position may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged,” according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration back in April.
Yelchin’s seemingly freak accident sadly isn’t all that uncommon.
People die in their driveway every year and a significant percentage of these deaths are children. On average there are 210 deaths per year from backover crashes, which involve reversing into a person, and 31 percent of those deaths are children under 5 years old, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Adults who are at least 70 years of age make up 26 percent of backover deaths. Another 15,000 people are injured each year from these accidents.
Although this was not the case for Yelchin, many of these accidents happen because drivers can’t see behind them. In 2014, the NHTSA announced that it would require rearview cameras by May 1, 2018, according to a press release on the department’s website.
“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of backover accidents—our children and seniors,” said Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx in a press release on the department’s website. “As a father, I can only imagine how heart wrenching these types of accidents can be for families, but we hope that today’s rule will serve as a significant step toward reducing these tragic accidents.”
The problem is that a law requiring rearview cameras from 2008 was supposed to be enforced by 2011, according to CNN.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 58 to 68 lives will be saved each year after 2018 when the technology is implemented in all new cars.