FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
Janette Fennell, Kids and Cars, 913-851-0008, or
Sally Greenberg, Consumers Union, 202-462-6262
Legislation Announced as Nation Logs its 61st Child Backover Death This Year
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – In the wake of the nation’s latest backover death of a child – a 23-month-old toddler killed Monday in Indiana when his nanny inadvertently backed over him with her SUV – two consumer groups working for better automobile child safety measures endorsed a new bill designed to address the problem of hazards to children in and around cars.
Kids and Cars, nonprofit child safety group, and Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, today lauded HR 3683, “The Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2003,” introduced by Rep. Peter King, R-NY.
“We commend Congressman King for his leadership in sponsoring legislation to address the dangers facing kids in and around parked cars,” said Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Cars, and Sally Greenberg, senior product safety counsel for Consumers Union. The bill is named after 2-year-old Cameron Gulbranson, who lived in King’s congressional district and died when his father was unable to see him as he backed his SUV into the driveway.
The groups also applauded Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., the ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Subcommittee with oversight over the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for being an original co-sponsor of the bill.
The dangers to children addressed in this bill include:
● Children being backed over and killed, often by their own parents or relatives, in driveways because they cannot be seen in the driver’s blind area behind the car;
● Children being injured or killed when they inadvertently operate power windows that close on their necks or injure other body parts.
● Children dying of hyperthermia when inadvertently left inside cars in warm weather.
The bill will direct the federal government, specifically NHTSA, to begin gathering data on non-traffic, non-crash incidents, something it currently does not do. The bill also will require NHTSA to test backover warning devices (currently available as original equipment on high-end vehicles and as aftermarket equipment for the general public); require that power window designs are safe and include pinch-proof or auto reverse technology to prevent injury and death; and explore technologies that could save the lives of hundreds of children who likely will die of hyperthermia in the next decade because they are inadvertently left inside vehicles in warm weather.
“The hazards to children being backed over is growing,” said Fennell. “In 2002, 58 children were backed over and killed when the driver of the vehicle was unable to see them as they backed up the vehicles, often in their own driveways. An unprecedented number of backover deaths have been documented this year — at least 61. This problem is only going to get worse unless we improve the visibility behind the vehicles we drive.”
The latest incident occurred Monday, when police in South Bend, Ind., reported that a 23-month-old child was killed when his nanny reportedly hit him in his driveway while backing up her vehicle. The nanny said she didn’t see the child.
“We need to get these life saving technologies into all vehicles. Once they are there, they will give drivers the ability to save the most precious lives of all, our children,” Greenberg said.