Safety advocates and two parents who unintentionally hit their children with their vehicles when backing up have sued the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The suit requests a court to order the DOT to promptly issue a safety rule mandated by Congress in 2008 to set federal standards on vehicles’ rear visibility. DOT estimated that the rule it proposed in 2010, but has failed to finalize, would prevent 95 to 112 deaths and 7,072 to 8,374 injuries each year when implemented. Congress ordered the rule issued by 2011, but the administration has repeatedly delayed and has now postponed the rule until 2015.
Each year, more than 200 individuals are killed and 18,000 injured in “backover” crashes. Drivers using all three mirrors cannot see a blind zone several feet high directly behind their vehicles. Sadly, 44 percent of those killed in backover incidents are children younger than 5 years old. Each week, on average, 50 children are injured, two fatally, by backover crashes. In 2008, Congress enacted the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, which directed the DOT to issue a rule requiring significantly improved rear visibility in new consumer vehicles through backup cameras or other means. The bill passed the House and Senate and then-President George W. Bush signed it into law. The law required that DOT issue the rule within three years, and permitted the agency to extend the deadline only if it “cannot be met.”
The DOT initially made progress in the rulemaking, issuing a proposed rule in December 2010. In November 2011, the agency sent its final draft of the rule to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, where it remained for 19 months. Then in June 2013, after the DOT had already granted itself three extensions of the February 2011 statutory deadline, the agency withdrew the rule from OMB and pushed the deadline back yet again, to January 2015.
The DOT claimed that it needs time for more study – even though it has already conducted research it has characterized as “extensive.” The DOT’s projected completion date in 2015 is nearly four years after the deadline set by Congress and seven years after the law was passed. That’s inexcusable and shouldn’t be tolerated. While automobile manufacturers have included rear-view camera systems in a growing number of cars, many cars still don’t have them.
By the DOT’s own estimates, its delay past the statutory deadline has so far allowed between 237 and 280 preventable deaths – almost half of those killed have been young children – along with thousands of preventable injuries. By the same estimates, another 118 to 140 people will die in preventable backover crashes before the DOT regulates, even assuming the agency doesn’t extend the date again. The suit was filed by Dr. Greg Gulbransen, Susan Auriemma, Consumers Union of the United States, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Kids And Cars, Inc.
All the Plaintiffs are represented in the suit by Public Citizen. Each of the individual Plaintiffs has had an experience with the issue. Ms. Auriemma, of Manhasset, N.Y., backed over her 3-year-old daughter Kate in her driveway in 2005, injuring her. Dr. Gulbransen, of Syosset, N.Y., backed over his 2-year-old son Cameron in his driveway in 2002, killing him. In fact, the 2008 law is named after Cameron.
The lawsuit came in the form of a petition filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in the state of New York. The petition asks the court to declare that the DOT has unreasonably delayed the rule, and to direct the DOT and its secretary, Anthony Foxx, to issue the rule within 90 days. The petition contends that the length of time the DOT is taking is unreasonable under the Administrative Procedure Act. The DOT has violated the timetable set forth by Congress. The following are comments from some of the individuals who are involved in this lawsuit:
Dr. Greg Gulbransen
It’s mindboggling that two more children like Cameron 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.
After I backed over my own daughter and injured her, I worked to make sure this or something even worse would never happen to any other family. Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to say they weren’t going to let these needless deaths continue, but now their will is being thwarted.
Joan Claybrook, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and president emeritus of Public Citizen
Further delays in issuing the safety standard are unacceptable and unnecessary. As a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, I know that there is enough data to take action today. With each passing week, children throughout America will die or be horribly injured because a proven and effective safety solution is being withheld by DOT under pressure from the auto manufacturers.
Janette Fennell, President of Kids and Cars, Inc.
It’s easy for the administration to do nothing, but it’s the families across the country who 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.
Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union
This rule has been delayed for years. More manufacturers are offering this critical safety feature, but we believe it should be standard in all new cars and trucks. Rear visibility technology can save lives, and the time for action is long overdue.
Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Passing the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Act was not controversial in 2008 and implementing the law should not be controversial today. Democratic and Republican members of Congress supported enactment, along with consumer and safety groups, pediatricians, families whose children were killed in backover crashes and the auto industry. It is time to stop delaying and start solving a dangerous safety problem with a technology that is available and absolutely essential to saving lives.
Scott Michelman, a lawyer for Public Citizen
When Congress ordered this rule issued in three years, they meant three years, not seven. It’s time for a court to step in and make the Transportation Department issue the rule. No administration is above the law.
If you want more information on the lawsuit or its subject matter, contact Amber Rollins at 816-216-7085 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Public Citizen News Release
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