Auto Safety Bill Addresses Backovers, Power Window Accidents

By | December 20, 2007

The government would be required to examine a number of auto safety problems such as backovers and other deadly accidents involving children under a bill approved by a House committee on Tuesday.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on a voice vote, passed a bill that would require federal regulators to consider ways of diminishing blind zones in large sport utility vehicles and pickups, preventing vehicles from rolling away, and making power windows safer.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the committee’s chairman, said it would “help protect these young victims by instituting common-sense safety provisions in the design of cars.”

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

Safety advocates estimate that about four children die each week in backovers, strangulation from power windows or from being left behind in hot vehicles.

Automakers objected to earlier versions of the bill, arguing that it would require them to install expensive backup cameras in their vehicles to meet new standards to help drivers detect children or objects behind the vehicle.

Under the compromise, the enhanced visibility could be accomplished through additional mirrors, sensors, cameras or other technologies.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would have to issue a final rule within three years of the bill’s enactment.

“Nobody should have to back out of the driveway without seeing what’s behind them,” said Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

On power windows, NHTSA would need to develop new rules to require the windows to automatically reverse direction if there’s an obstruction in the way. If the agency decided not to issue final requirements, it would need to explain its decision to Congress.

The bill also puts into law a voluntary agreement approved last year by 19 automakers, who vowed to have brake interlock systems in all new vehicles by September 2010. Such systems allow the vehicle to shift out of park only when the brake pedal is depressed.

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