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Study Finds 120 Killed in 1998 in Auto Backovers; Most are Children

Wednesday, May 5, 2004
Sally Greenberg, CU, (202) 462-6262
Janette Fennell, (913) 327-0013

New Study Finds at Least 120 People Killed Each Year in backovers;
Underscores Need for Congress to Pass Auto Safety Measures

(Washington, D.C.) – A study by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) on “non-crash, non-traffic” auto deaths found that at least 120 people are killed each year in backover deaths — the majority children under the age of 5 — reinforcing the need for Congress to pass pending legislation that would require the government study the effectiveness of backover warning devices in cars.
“Many of these incidents could be prevented if existing technology were put into today’s vehicles,” said Sally Greenberg, senior product safety counsel for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. “The numbers of backover deaths may be small relative to other highway fatality data, but they could be zero. Unlike drunk driving or not using a seat belt, the hazards to children in and around cars doesn’t require a change in behavior, it requires a change in technology.”
The NHTSA study also found that in 1997-98, the years it examined, at least eight children were strangled to death in power windows.
Consumers Union has joined Kids And Cars in calling on Congress to pass the broad safety reforms found in S. 1072, passed in February by the Senate in the transportation bill. The measure would require NHTSA to collect this type of non-crash, non-traffic data, test backover warning devices for their effectiveness, and require safer designs of power window switches within the next two years. The Senate bill is now being reconciled with the House transportation bill, which only requires NHTSA to collect data on backover incidents, but contains none of the other safety measures.
Janette Fennell, president of Kids And Cars, a national child car-safety advocacy organization, has been collecting data for years on these types of deaths, and said trends show that Congress needs to address these problems now.
“Kids being backed over by parents in their own driveways, kids getting strangled in power windows, kids dying of hyperthermia — these incidents are predictable and preventable,” Fennell said. “We welcome the government’s entry into gathering these important statistics, and we’d like Congress to make sure this becomes a routine part of their data collection system.”
Added Greenberg: “Parents want to keep their kids safe. We’re simply trying to give parents the tools they need to do it. But if they simply cannot see in back of them, or don’t know that a child can be strangled by a power window, the hazards are obvious. And these statistics underscore the problem.”
For more information, go to Consumers Union’s site www.safecarsforkids.org, or www.kidsandcars.org.