In this Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 photo, Paul and Judy Neiman hold a photo of their daughter, Sydnee, in her bedroom at their home in West Richland, Wash. Sydnee died in late 2011 after Judy accidentally backed over her with her SUV. Although there is a law in place that calls for new manufacturing requirements to improve the visibility behind passenger vehicles, the standards have yet to be mandated because of delays by the U.S. Department of Transportation. (AP Photo/Kai-Huei Yau)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In the private hell of a mother’s grief, the sounds come back to Judy Neiman. The SUV door slamming. The slight bump as she backed up in the bank parking lot. The emergency room doctor’s sobs as he said her 9-year-old daughter Sydnee, who previously had survived four open heart surgeries, would not make it this time.
Her own cries of: How could I have missed seeing her?
The 53-year-old woman has sentenced herself to go on living in the awful stillness of her West Richland, Wash., home, where she makes a plea for what she wants since she can’t have Sydnee back: More steps taken by the government and automakers to help prevent parents from accidentally killing their children, as she did a year ago this month.
“They have to do something, because I’ve read about it happening to other people. I read about it and I said, ‘I would die if it happens to me,’” Neiman says. “Then it did happen to me.”
There is, in fact, a law in place that calls for new manufacturing requirements to improve the visibility behind passenger vehicles to help prevent such fatal backing crashes, which the government estimates kill some 228 people every year — 110 of them children age 10 and under — and injures another 17,000.
Congress passed the measure with strong bipartisan backing, and Republican President George W. Bush signed it in 2008.
But almost five years later, the standards have yet to be mandated because of delays by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which faced a Feb. 28, 2011, deadline to issue the new guidelines for car manufacturers. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has pushed back that deadline three times — promising this past February that the rules would be issued by the end of 2012.
With still no action, safety advocates and anguished parents such as Neiman are asking: What’s taking so long to remedy a problem recognized by government regulators and automakers for decades now?
“In a way, it’s a death sentence, and for no good reason,” said former Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook, who once directed the federal agency responsible for developing the rules.
The proposed regulations call for expanding the field of view for cars, vans, SUVs and pickup trucks so that drivers can see directly behind their vehicles when in reverse — requiring, in most Login to read more