March 8, 2003 – March 27, 2005
AFTER LOSING HER DAUGHTER, WEST BOCA MOM ON MISSION TO MAKE SAFETY SENSORS STANDARD
A year after little Veronica lost her life when a neighbor backed out of his driveway, her mom is lobbying hard for safety sensors.
By Patty Pensa South Florida Sun-Sentinel March 26, 2006
West Boca -- The morning was still, quiet, perfect for a stroll. And, boy, did 2-year-old Veronica Rosenfeld love to stroll.
Then it happened, quickly, without warning.
"Out of nowhere, he backed out," said her mom, Arden Rosenfeld. "The next thing I saw was my child under the car."
It was a year ago Monday when the Rosenfelds' 73-year-old neighbor pulled his Lincoln Town Car out of his driveway, striking Veronica, who was only five feet ahead of her mom, never out of view. She died at the hospital.
Rosenfeld sits still on a couch in her spacious home west of Boca Raton. Her voice is steady as she retells the worst day of her life, the story broken by quick, heavy sighs.
Instead of being consumed by her tragedy, Rosenfeld stands at the forefront of a movement to make backup sensors or cameras as common as seatbelts. Advocates say the need for such devices has grown with the super-sizing of SUVs and trucks.
Nationwide, more than 100 children died last year after being hit by vehicles as they backed up. Legislation in Congress aims to prevent these accidents by requiring devices that alert drivers when someone is behind their vehicles.
Cameras and sensors already are offered on some new models, but it would be up to the U.S. Department of Transportation to decide what should be the norm.
"I can't imagine why anyone would stop this," Rosenfeld said.
On March 9, a day after what would have been Veronica's third birthday, Rosenfeld traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby alongside the founder and president of Kids and Cars, a nonprofit group based in Kansas.
The group gained momentum last year when President Bush signed a law directing the Transportation Department to start collecting data on these accidents. The department also was told to study backup safety technology.
"Those were significant strides forward," said Janette Fennell, Kids and Cars president. "But that was just laying the groundwork."
While the fate of the latest legislation is uncertain, advocates are encouraged by its bipartisan support. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and Sen. John Sununu, R-New Hampshire, are co-sponsors. If passed, it would give automakers three years to make the safety devices standard.
In John DeSimone's household they already are. DeSimone, of Parkland, added sensors to the family vehicles four years ago. DeSimone has a Ford F150 pickup truck, and his wife just got the Infiniti QX56 SUV with a rearview camera.
"I'm a safety nut when it comes to my kids," said DeSimone, whose daughters are 10 and 11. "I think certainly every truck and SUV should have it."
It's also DeSimone's business to install backup sensors and cameras, though they're not that popular. Yet.
DeSimone, a partner in Ideal Automotive and Truck Accessories in Fort Lauderdale, and others in the business expect the trend for backup systems to grow. For now, iPod and satellite radio systems are the most common installations for Interactive Electronics, a mobile business west of Boca Raton.
"They should definitely come on cars automatically," said Tom Nesbit, who owns Interactive Electronics. "It's not like it's that expensive."
Adding backup sensors costs a few hundred dollars. Retrofitting a car for a camera system is more expensive, from several hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars.
Fennell, of Kids and Cars, said there could be other options: bigger back windows, bigger mirrors or brakes that automatically stop the car.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents nine automakers, opposes the legislation. Eron Shosteck, director of safety communications for the trade association, said backup sensors are reliable only with inanimate objects such as curbs and light poles. Cameras, he said, are expensive.
"The technology is available to consumers who want it," he said. "Many consumers do not want to be compelled to pay for technology they don't need."
If mass produced, the devices would drop in price, advocates say. U.S. Rep Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Weston, is backing the bill.
"I can't imagine what would be more important than trying to avoid entirely preventable accidents," she said.
For Rosenfeld, nothing would have been more important. The memory of wiping blood from her daughter's face cuts deep. There is no way to let go. She was a running, jumping, squealing little girl. Blonde hair bouncy, blue eyes bright. Upstairs, in Veronica's room, a pink blanket bearing her name rests on a rocking chair. The sheets in her crib are the same as on the last day she slept there.
They were never washed.
"I have a hole in my heart," Rosenfeld said. "My life was Veronica. She was my world. When she was gone, what was I going to do? I don't want my daughter's life to be for nothing."
Patty Pensa can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6609 561-243-6609 .
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel