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Child deaths spike from vehicle backovers and power windows

Child Deaths Spike from Vehicle Backovers and Power Windows;
Congress Should Require Simple Auto Fixes in Pending Bill

Survivors and Advocates Step-up Campaign to Approve Safety Measures;
New National Poll and State-By-State Fatality Numbers Released

Contact: Sally Greenberg, 202-462-6262
Janette Fennell, 415-336-9279
(Washington, DC) -July 20, 2004 – Child safety advocates KIDS AND CARS today released new statistics that show a sharp increase in the number of children killed and injured in backover and power window incidents and CONSUMERS UNION released a poll showing 8 in 10 Americans want more car-safety regulations to protect children.
The figures, poll and new public awareness materials are part of a stepped-up public information campaign launched as legislators consider the Safe and Flexible Transportation Efficiency Act of 2004 (SAFETEA), which includes measures to help prevent these tragic incidents. Click here to send an email to Congress urging it to pass these measures.
In 2003, at least 91 children were backed over and killed, a 57 percent increase from 2002. The statistics are compiled by KIDS AND CARS because the federal government does not track these types of non-crash incidents.
“The sharp rise in children killed by backovers and power windows is disturbing,” KIDS AND CARS founder and president Janette Fennell said at a news conference Tuesday in the Capitol. “If Congress doesn’t act now in the transportation bill to approve these auto safety measures, the number of child deaths will only increase.”
A conference committee is currently considering requiring the safety measures as part of the final transportation bill that will go the president. The Senate-approved SAFETEA bill included provisions requiring the federal government to: collect data on non-traffic, non-crash incidents; issue a safety standard that requires child-safe power windows; and evaluate backup warning devices to see which are most effective in detecting small children behind vehicles. The House version of the transportation bill does not include any safety provisions.
Britt Gates, whose daughter was killed by a power window, attended the event and said, “I can barely describe the pain my family has gone through after losing our daughter to an unsafe power window. I hope that Congress remembers that these tragedies, which happen to unsuspecting families, are preventable.”
Other parents at the event included Dr. Greg Gulbransen, a pediatrician who lost his son in a backover incident, and Becky Hergatt, whose son narrowly escaped death from a power window.
The proposed auto safety measures are supported by a vast majority of Americans in a newly released CONSUMERS UNION poll, conducted May 12-17, which showed 82 percent of respondents would choose vehicles equipped with a backup warning device and safe power switches. The survey also found that 7 in 10 respondents said the government should require automakers to install these devices.
“Americans want cars that are safer for children, and more than 70 percent believe that laws should require this protection.” said Sally Greenberg, senior product counsel for the CONSUMERS UNION. “Automakers will sell you a DVD player in a vehicle for more than a thousand dollars, but won’t make available these safety features that are a fraction of the cost.”
The poll also found that 73 percent think the federal government should be collecting information on non-traffic, non-crash injuries and deaths in and around vehicles. Without tracking incidents, advocates say it is nearly impossible for the government to understand the magnitude of the problems and to know about design flaws or safety omissions in vehicles.
Representatives from Nartron and HitchCam demonstrated technologies at the event that could help stop these unnecessary deaths. Nartron displayed car window technology that stops the window from rolling up if anything is in the way. HitchCam displayed rear video camera systems that reduce the blind spot where children are most likely to be hurt. These examples of existing safety technologies are not an endorsement of any one product.
Also included in the campaign are a series of eight 30-second TV public service announcement spots; vehicle sun shades, auto-safety posters for pediatrics offices, hospitals, public health departments, and childcare centers and other venues. KIDS AND CARS will be delivering children’s books–in the Golden Books style of the 1950s–to transportation conference committee members that contain one page stories about what can happen to children from these tragic incidents.
Founded in 1996, KIDS AND CARS is a nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of injuries and death to children from non-traffic, non-crash events in and around automobiles. KIDS AND CARS is headquartered in Kansas City, KS. For more information, visit www.kidsandcars.org or call 913-327-0013.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving only consumers. It is a comprehensive source for unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health and nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, its mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.