House Approves Auto-Safety Bill on Backovers, Window Accidents

December 21, 2007

The House voted Wednesday to require the government to review a number of auto-safety problems affecting children, such as backovers and power-window accidents.

Transportation Department officials would need to consider ways of reducing blind zones in large sport-utility vehicles and pickups, preventing vehicles from rolling away and making power windows safer.

“Many children are killed in these kinds of accidents each year without ever leaving their driveways _ suffocated by unsafe power windows, backed over by cars with major blind spots, or hit because a car was accidentally put into motion by a child who could not control it,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., the bill’s chief sponsor.

The measure was named after Cameron Gulbransen, a 2-year-old New York boy who was killed when his father accidentally backed over him in his driveway. The bill was approved on a voice vote.

Safety advocates estimate that about four children die each week because they were left unattended in and around motor vehicles. They have noted that the government is not required to keep data of these “non-traffic, non-crash related” accidents.

The bill would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to start a database on these types of injuries.

Automakers raised concerns with earlier versions of the bill and said it would force them to install expensive backup cameras in their vehicles to meet new standards. Under the compromise, the enhanced visibility could be accomplished through additional mirrors, sensors, cameras or other technologies.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., a veteran supporter of the auto industry, said it was “another example of a commonsense, bipartisan approach to regulating an industry and adequately protecting our children.”

A Senate committee approved similar legislation in May following reports of children being backed over in their driveways.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said late Wednesday there were some Republican objections to the bill but he was hopeful the Senate could consider the measure in January.

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