According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), back-over auto accidents cause over 17,000 injuries and over 200 deaths annually, with 44% of these deaths to children five years of age or younger. In more than seventy percent of deaths, a parent or close relative was backing up the vehicle. In 2008, in response to this growing and preventable problem, Congress passed the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, which required the NHTSA to expand the driver’s rearward field of view to allow drivers to detect pedestrians who are in, or who may be entering, the area behind the vehicle and avoid striking them. The Department of Transportation (DOT) was to issue a final rule by February 28, 2011. Today, more than five years later, the law has yet to take effect. The tragic cost of the delay? Do the math: 85,000 injuries and 1500 deaths. The DOT has granted itself an extension on four separate occasions, the latest delay came this week extending the final ruling until January 2015. These delays are should not be tolerated by a concerned public; another 600 people will die in preventable back-over accidents during this period, more if there are additional extensions beyond 2015.
Tired of the agency dragging its feet, safety advocate groups have had enough. Public Citizen and Janette Fennell’s “Kids & Cars,” along with two parents who unintentionally backed their vehicle into their own kids have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation asking a court to order the agency to issue the safety rule mandated in 2008 within 90 days. The suit argues that the length of time DOT is taking is unreasonable under the Administrative Procedure Act. DOT’s failure to show that Congress’s original deadline “cannot be met” is required by the statute; its inaction has had an enormous cost in human life. One of the parents, Dr. Greg Gulbransen, who filed the petition said:
“It’s mind-boggling that two more children like Cameron [whom the law is named after] are killed every week, yet the administration is content to postpone doing anything about it. This isn’t some technical abstraction, it’s about actual people being injured and killed.”
Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Cars, Inc. agrees:
“It’s easy for the administration to do nothing, but it’s the families across the country that pay the ultimate price when children are at risk of injury or death every day in their own driveways. We know there’s a problem; we know there’s a simple solution. The Transportation Department has a mission, duty and obligation to protect the public, but every day it stalls this rule, Americans unnecessarily remain in danger.”
Automakers say that consumers should have the choice which safety features to pay for. The same automakers opposing the mandate say that the cost would be approximately $160 to $200 per vehicle. So, it comes down to this simple question: Is your child’s life worth 200 bucks? Isn’t every child in America worth more than a lousy 200 bucks? The societal benefit clearly outweighs the cost, hundreds of lives saved; thousands of injuries prevented. It is scary that this simple fix is so difficult to execute in our political system. Is this another consequence of gridlock?
Every parent, every grandparent, every citizen, should, at a minimum, demand immediate action. Write every politician who represents your state, city or district. Demand that they pass this bill, immediately. Voice your concern; get involved. Give generously to the non-profits who are waging this important battle on your kids’ behalf. You can also get involved by going to KidsAndCars.org. It is time to step up and protect our country’s most precious resource, our children.
Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.