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Kids and Cars Cites Unprecedented Number of Children Killed In 2003–At Least 72–In Backover Incidents

Friday, January 23, 2004
Kids and Cars, Janette Fennell, 913-327-0013 or
Consumers Union, Sally Greenberg, 202-462-6262

Kids and Cars cites unprecedented number of children killed
in 2003–at least 72- in backover incidents

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Kids and Cars, the nonprofit auto child safety group, and Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, working in partnership for stronger child safety measures in cars, endorsed a new Senate bill designed to address the problem of hazards to children in and around cars. The groups lauded the “Safe Kids, Safe Cars Act of 2004,” sponsored by Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH). “We commend Senator DeWine for his leadership in sponsoring legislation to address the preventable dangers facing kids in and around parked cars,” said Sally Greenberg, senior product safety counsel for Consumers Union and Janette Fennell founder and president of Kids and Cars.
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 directly behind the car;
● Children being injured or killed when they inadvertently operate power windows that close on their necks or injure other body parts; and
● Children dying of hyperthermia when inadvertently left inside cars in warm weather
The bill directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to evaluate current technologies for improving the performance of seat belts in protecting children between 4 and 8 years old.
The bill will also direct NHTSA to collect data, test and evaluate 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 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. Kids and Cars documented 42 children dying of hyperthermia in 2003 alone because they were left inside a vehicle in hot weather.
“The problem of children being backed over is only going to get worse unless we improve the visibility behind the vehicles we drive. Fatalities have jumped at least 24% in just one year from 58 in 2002 to at least 72 fatalities in 2003,” said Fennell. “The number of children dying of hyperthermia when unintentionally left in a vehicle has also increased to the highest number ever documented in one year. It is important to understand that our data vastly underestimates the true magnitude of these deaths and injuries. We need the Federal government to begin collecting data to truly understand the significance of nontraffic noncrash incidents,” she added.
Consumer Reports has begun measuring the blind spots for both short and average drivers for each vehicle it tests and posting that information on its Website at www.consumerreports.org/co/vehicleblindspots or at www.kidsandcars.org. Consumer Reports will also report when it tests new cars whether their power windows and sunroofs feature the child-safe type switch or the older model switches that can inadvertently be operated by a 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.

To read the Senate Bill, click here