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Senate Passes Auto Safety Bill

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KEN THOMAS | February 14, 2008 06:39 PM EST | AP

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WASHINGTON — Congress on Thursday sent President Bush legislation to improve auto safety for children, including measures intended to reduce backovers and accidents involving power windows.

The bill, which passed the Senate on a voice vote Thursday, was approved by the House last December and now goes to Bush for his signature. A White House official said the president is expected to sign the bill.

The legislation is a response to incidents of children being accidentally backed over by cars with large blind spots, strangled by power windows or struck by vehicles that roll out of the parked position.

Building upon a voluntary agreement reached by automakers, it requires new vehicles by 2010 to have brake interlock systems, which prevent a vehicle from shifting out of park unless the brake pedal is depressed.

To address backovers, future vehicles would likely offer additional mirrors, sensor devices or cameras to help reduce blind spots.

The bill also requires the government to study a power window auto-reverse safety standard to prevent children from getting caught in the windows and it creates a database of non-traffic deaths and injuries.

Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., noted that an estimated 230 children were killed last year in so-called "non-traffic" accidents and said he was hopeful the bill would "reduce this unnecessary loss of life."

"We have the technology to prevent these deaths, it just needs to be put to use," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Safety advocates praised the measure.

"We love our kids and this is something that is going to protect them," said Janette Fennell, who founded Kids and Cars, a Kansas-based auto safety group which sought the measure.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., was named after Cameron Gulbransen, a 2-year-old New York boy who was killed when his father accidentally backed over him in his driveway.

"With this legislation we honor his memory, and the memory of all children taken from us by these tragic and preventable auto accidents," Clinton said in a statement.

Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which supported the measure, said it would build upon the safety equipment being installed by automakers such as additional air bags and electronic stability control.