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CBS News Transcripts July 21, 2004 Wednesday

SHOW: The Early Show (7:00 AM ET) - CBS

July 21, 2004 Wednesday

HEADLINE: Dr. Greg Gulbransen and Representative Peter King discuss a bill in Congress to reduce accidents involving SUVs and children

ANCHORS: JOHN ROBERTS

BODY:
JOHN ROBERTS, co-host:

At least 91 children were killed last year by vehicles that backed over them; that's according to a troubling report from the advocate group Kids and Cars. A bill in Congress aimed at reducing numbers is named after two-year-old Cameron Gulbransen, who died when his father accidentally backed over him with his SUV. Dr. Greg Gulbransen, that father, joins us along with Congressman Peter King, who introduced the bill.

Good morning to you, gentlemen.

Dr. GREG GULBRANSEN (Son Killed By SUV): Good morning.

Representative PETER KING (Co-sponsor, Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2003): Good morning.

ROBERTS: Dr. Gulbransen, it was about two years ago that the accident happened. I'm sure that it's probably still difficult to talk about, even to this day. But can you, sort of to the best of your ability, tell us what happened that day?

Dr. GULBRANSEN: Sure, John. Yeah, my wife and I had returned home one evening-it was a Saturday evening-and we had gone in the house. Our two children were asleep with the baby sitter. We had-my wife was inside. And I stepped back outside of the house temporarily to move the car-actually it was an SUV-from the driveway-sorry, from the street back into the driveway. My children were inside. The door was closed. While I was doing that, my two-year-old son woke up and inadvertently somehow got out of the house. And as I was backing up the vehicle from the street into the driveway, I ran right over him. I did not see him. I did use rear-view mirrors; I remember vividly used-you know, looked out the rear window, and I backed in. And I felt that bump, and I looked out and I saw that I had run over him. And he died of massive head injuries.

ROBERTS: Unbelievable. You're a pediatrician.

Dr. GULBRANSEN: Yeah.

ROBERTS: You ran around the front...

Dr. GULBRANSEN: That's right.

ROBERTS: ...of the vehicle. I mean, what was your immediate assessment of what had happened?

Dr. GULBRANSEN: That's right. Well, you know, as a pediatrician, you know pretty quickly what's going on. I knew that there wasn't much I could do. I did my best. I did CPR, I called for help, did the whole thing. But I knew it was too late, and I just knew that this was something that was senseless. it was so easy to avoid. I did my best being safe as a father and a pediatrician, and I just couldn't do it. I don't want anyone else to go through this, and it was really difficult.

ROBERTS: Yet it seems to happen so often. Congressman King, as we mentioned, 91 children were backed over in 2003; that represents about a 57 percent increase over 2002. You've got a bill in Congress now to try to alleviate some of these unnecessary deaths. It's stalled in committee, attached to the transportation bill. What are you going to do to get it out? What does this bill propose to do?

Rep. KING: Well, actually, I want to thank Dr. Gulbransen for bringing this to my attention. He's been working closely with me on it. I really give him tremendous credit for taking such a terrible tragedy and turning it into something positive.

The bill itself would require, one, the Department of Transportation to keep records on how often this happens; also, to test and monitor equipment, such as sensory devices, video cameras, both of which would work dramatically in helping to eliminate this from ever happening again. The bill itself is-while it did not make it through the House, it did make it through the Senate. So right now, without boring you with all the details, it's in the conference committee and it's part of the transportation bill. And if we can get it out of the conference committee-and that's just a handful of people that are over there right now debating this and negotiating this-it would come back to the House, come back to the Senate as part of the overall transportation bill, and it would pass. So right now we're using all our efforts to get the conferees on this bill to approve it. It's something which would save so many lives. When I talk to people and they hear about it, everyone says, 'There but for the grace of God, that could have been me.' Think of how many times just for a moment, you know, your child is out of your sight, and that's what we're talking about here.

ROBERTS: Yeah. I myself have got an SUV as one of my two cars. And every time I back that up-it's got sensors on the bumper. But every time I back it up, I'm just sort of praying that there's nothing behind there that I haven't checked. Dr. Gulbransen, when we talk about the blind spots on SUVs, how large is that area? I believe your child was run over by the front tire, was he not?

Dr. GULBRANSEN: You know, it-that's correct. He was run over by the front tire. I had backed up. He went under the car.

ROBERTS: Right.

Dr. GULBRANSEN: And I was like-clipped him with the front tire. But some of these vehicles have blind spots as small as 20 feet; some of them as great as 75, maybe 80 feet-depends on the height of the driver and the type of vehicle you're, you know, discussing. But SUVs have such large blind spots, and they're obviously here to stay. We're all hooked on these things as families for certain features that they have. But they have an inherent weakness, and that's the blind spot. We don't appreciate that, and now I do.

And I think it's important for everybody, from the government down to the automobile manufacturers, the dealerships and, you know, families, the drivers themselves, we have to all step in and take responsibility and realize that we can address this issue. It's easy to take care of. This happened to me. It shouldn't happen to anyone else. It's happening all the time. It's happened twice on Long Island in the last 12 weeks here, and it's ridiculous. It shouldn't be. It's usually an SUV driven by a parent, and it involves a small child.

ROBERTS: Right.

Dr. GULBRANSEN: If you had a camera, it would certainly eliminate this.

ROBERTS: Right. Congressman King, there's a lot of different technologies out there: sensors, cameras, whatever. Just quickly now, if you could 'cause we're running out of time, how much resistance is there from the automotive industry into adding these options into cars?

Rep. KING: Oh, there's quite a bit. The auto manufacturers do not want it. Ironically, they do have it in the European cars; they don't have it in the cars that are made for American consumption. So we really have to put pressure on the auto manufacturers. I believe that once people find out about this, they will implore their congressmen and senators...

ROBERTS: OK.

Rep. KING: ...to vote for it.

ROBERTS: All right.

Rep. KING: It's absolutely essential.

ROBERTS: Well, Congressman King, Dr. Gulbransen, thanks for being with us.

This is THE EARLY SHOW on CBS.

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