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Group pushing bill to protect children from being backed over

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Joined by grieving parents, child safety advocates sought support Tuesday for a bill that would require automakers to install technology on vehicles to help prevent children from being accidentally backed over or strangled by power windows.

``If it happens to you, you're going to be upset that a $200, or $300, or $400 piece of equipment could have saved your child's life,'' said Bill Nelson, of Dix Hills, N.Y., whose 16-month-old son, Alec, was killed last year when he was accidentally backed over.

Safety advocates said about three children die each week in non-traffic, non-crash incidents, including youngsters backed over by vehicles, having their necks caught in power windows or being left behind in vehicles by preoccupied parents running errands or rushing off to work.

They said many vehicles, including sport utility vehicles and trucks, have blind spots that can extend as much as 50 feet, making it difficult for drivers to see children who might crawl behind the bumper or in the path of a vehicle.

``These are accidents that are preventable if we use the technology that is available,'' said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who introduced the measure with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

The bill would order the Transportation Department to issue regulations requiring that power windows be capable of automatically reversing when an obstruction is detected and requiring all vehicles to have cameras and other sensor devices that could help a driver spot someone in the vehicle's blind spot.

Lawmakers are also seeking the installation of technology to remind the driver if any other passengers are still in the vehicle after they turn off the ignition, a move designed to prevent children from accidentally being left unattended in a car.

The bill would also require the government to keep data on the number of children killed and injured each year in non-traffic related incidents on private property. Advocacy groups estimate about 165 children were killed in 2003, but complain that there is limited data on the problem.

``They're going to find probably two-to-three times the number of incidents that I've uncovered,'' said Janette Fennell, founder of Kids and Cars, the advocacy group pushing the bill.

Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures, said the cameras are available on several different models of sport utility vehicles and pickups, and would cost an estimated $1,000 to $2,000 per vehicle.

``Consumers have the option to purchase it if they wish, but automakers don't believe that every consumer should be forced to pay for technology that they may not want,'' Shosteck said.
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