A recent blog post by Scott Greenfield, New York criminal defense attorney, caught my eye. I was stunned to learn that the Kids and Cars Safety Act was made law 5 years ago and we still do not have the protections it calls for. The post discusses a tragic accident in 2003 where a pediatrician father backed over his 2 year old son in the driveway and killed him. The father didn't know the boy was there and more importantly to this discussion, didn't see him. As a mother of two young children, I cannot imagine the pain this father experienced and continues to experience. We have all been there – our kid sneaks out of the house for one last goodbye as we leave for work or she hops off her bike up the street to run and say hello when she sees our car. What happened to poor Dr. Greg Gulbransen and his little boy, Cameron, could have happened to any one of us.
In fact, this happens more than we think it does. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) estimates that these "back over" accidents kill 228 people a year with 110 of them being young children. In addition, these back over accidents injure another 17,000 people per year. This is not an isolated incident.
In response to Cameron's death, in 2003, New York Representative King introduced the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act which was widely supported and signed into law by President Bush on in 2008. The law requires the Secretary of Transportation to issue safety standards to lower the number of child injuries and deaths. All passenger vehicles are to:
(1) have power windows and panels that automatically reverse direction when there is an obstruction;
(2) have rearward visibility permitting the driver to know if there is a person behind the car; and
(3) have a system requiring the brake to be engaged to move the car and while the key is out of ignition.
Most cars now have #1 and #3, although not all of them. But where are the required backup cameras? It is an easy fix to #2. The auto industry has what they need to get going but has complained of the cost. NHTSA estimates that adding a rear camera to a car with a display screen already built-in would cost around $80 – $200 for those cars without a dashboard display screen. Some cars have standard features, not related to safety, that cost a heck of a lot more than this. Why isn't the Department of Transportation requiring the auto industry to plow forward with this law? Here we are in 2013 and the rearview visibility issue has still not been addressed. I suspect most car buyers would not mind paying $80 for such a safety feature. Even more so, I suspect the public would rather the auto industry remove a non-safety feature and include the back up cameras.
Regardless, the Kids and Cars Safety Act is a fantastic bill but it does no good becoming law without implementation. NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation need their feet held to the fire. We love our kids, let's protect them.