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Vada Schoon

June 7, 2006

On June 7, 2006 my three-year-old niece, Vada Schoon, was killed in the driveway of her home at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. Vada was accidentally backed over by her mother (my sister), Jessica Schoon, and sustained injuries that lead to her death a very short time later.

That Wednesday in June of 2006 had started the same as any other. My brother-in-law left for work and my sister left Vada in the house while she went outside to quickly move her Ford Escape from the street into the driveway. My sister realized her SUV was not straight and shifted into reverse to straighten it out. She had checked all her mirrors and was looking straight behind her, but she had no way of knowing that Vada had let herself out of the house, ran outside and was behind her car. There was no way at all for Jessica to see little Vada directly behind her car. Vada was far too small to be visible to anyone inside of the SUV. My sister had no way of knowing Vada was outside of the house or that she was about to hurt her own child, her reason for living, the love of her life. She emerged from her SUV to see her three-year-old daughter lying in the driveway, fatally injured. The following minutes and hours will continue to haunt my sister for the rest of her life and have saddened our entire family more than words can possibly express. We will never be the same again without our precious Vada.

Sadly, we are not alone in our grief and sorrow over this horrific accident. Approximately 392 children have died from 1994 to 2004 as a result of being backed over, 101 of these deaths were in 2004 alone. In over 70% of the incidents, a parent or close relative was behind the wheel and 60% of these awful accidents involved an SUV, van, or pick-up truck where rear visibility is extremely limited.

There are multiple types of technology to help prevent children from being backed over. One system features an automotive camera technology that provides drivers a rear view image on a small video screen when the vehicle is in reverse. Another uses a Doppler radar sensor mounted at the rear of the vehicle to detect the presence of objects or people and alerts the driver with beeps and flashing lights. A third technology is a talking device that tells drivers how close they are to an object while in reverse. Finally, another system uses four ultrasonic sensors and an audible dynamic alarm inside the vehicle to warn the driver of objects behind the vehicle.

So why do we continue to let this tragedy repeat itself over and over again Why do we continue to allow our children to be put in harms way each and every day Why, when there is technology available to help prevent back overs, do we allow SUV, van, and pick-up truck manufacturers to continue to put out cars that do not use this technology

Part of the reason this type of accident has been so widely overlooked by lawmakers in the U.S. is because the Department of Transportation does not collect data on non-traffic, non-crash incidents, and without cold, hard facts and statistics to show exactly how often this tragedy plays itself out every year, it has been and will continue to be difficult to ascertain the extent of this problem. The Department of Transportation must start keeping track of exactly how many of our children are being injured and killed in this manner ever year and we need to use this information to create change. We need to take action to help prevent any more children from being hurt or killed in such a tragic way.

I am asking that you please consider supporting The Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007 (S. 694 and HR 1216), which was initially introduced to the House on May 10, 2005. The Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act was reintroduced in February of 2007 by Senator Clinton of New York. This bill is the first step in helping to protect our children from the dangers of being backed over and I am asking you to please help support this effort. We owe this to our children and to the families who have lost their children as a result of a backover.

I have given my word to my sister that I will do all I can to get the word out about what happened to her beloved Vada and try to keep this from happening to another child. If we can stop this tragedy from happening to even one child we have done something and my beautiful little niece will not have died in vain. Without a law in place that requires car makers to have this kind of life saving technology standard, all we can do is make people aware of the potential dangers, and that is what I am doing my best to accomplish.

I am hopeful that you will do your part to help get The Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007 passed by writing to your local members of congress and expressing your concern over these dangers and by signing this petition which will be forwarded on to the members of Senate from Maryland and New Jersey as well as Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and various car manufacturers. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to a very young life cut so tragically short.

If you would like to write directly to your lawmakers in support of The Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007, but simply do not have the time to do so, please consider visiting Consumers Union\’s Web site (see link below) which allows you to express your support of The Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007 directly to your own lawmakers and Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters in only a few minutes.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

Melissa Feimer

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