Paul and D.J. Zweigle, who lost their beloved two-year-old daughter Lynnea when a Ford F-250 truck backed over and killed her, today called upon the automotive industry to install rear camera systems and sensors in commercial trucks and large vans, pickup trucks and SUVs to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries each year that result from backover crashes.
On the morning of November 8, 2005, Mrs. Zweigle was preparing to take her six year-old son, Kaleb, to his art class, along with her two other young children, four year-old Jacob and Lynnea who was twenty-two months-old. The children were playing in the open yard in front of the house and immediately adjacent to the driveway.
Mrs. Zweigle went inside to retrieve a blanket and sippy cup from the house. During that time, a driver from a local trash company, Double J Disposal, Inc., drove up the Zweigleâ€™s driveway and loaded their trash into the back of his Ford F-250 pickup truck.
The truck had a significant blind zone and lacked a rear video camera or any other devices, such as sensors, to alert the driver to the presence of individuals immediately behind the truck.
While backing up to turn around and leave the driveway, the vehicle struck Lynnea, causing her to fall to the ground, and then continued to back up and run over her. Her brother, Kaleb, saw the accident occur and immediately began to scream. Mrs. Zweigle ran out of the house to find Lynneaâ€™s body lying in the driveway. Lynnea Zweigle died in her driveway of massive cranial cerebral injuries.
"Lynnea was a happy child who loved life and playing with her older brothers. No compensation will ever remedy the pain and loss that our family has suffered from the death of our beloved daughter," stated Paul and D.J. Zweigle. "We wish to honor Lynnea by bringing to the publicâ€™s attention that scores of children each year across America are needlessly killed and injured in backover incidents."
In a report issued to Congress in November 2006 by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), the agency estimated, relying on 1998 data, that backover crashes involving all vehicle types cause at least 183 fatalities annually, with many of victims being children. In addition, between 6,700 and 7,419 injuries result from backover crashes per year.
Based on its research, the non-profit organization KIDS AND CARS states that "every year, thousands of children are hurt or die because a driver backing up didn't see them." Most of the victims are less than two years old, and over 60% of the tragedies involved a larger size vehicle such a truck, van or SUV. While backover incidents can happen in any vehicle because all vehicles have a blind zone, KIDS AND CARS notes that larger vehicles tend to have larger blind zones.
"Several technologies exist which can help reduce backover accidents," stated Paul and D.J. Zweigle. "We call upon the automotive industry to make rear video cameras and sensors standard equipment on commercial trucks and large vans, pickups and SUVs to stop this national tragedy. Companies that have purchased these vehicles should immediately undertake measures to improve the safety of their vehicles."
In litigation against Double J Disposal, Inc., which was resolved in December 2006, the Zweigles asked the trash company to install a rear video camera system on all of their trucks. To date, the company has agreed to install a rear video camera on the vehicle that killed their beloved daughter and the family continues to seek additional safety measures. â€œWe call upon Double J Disposal to install rear video camera systems or other backup safety devices on all of their trucks,â€ stated Paul Zweigle.
Wendy R. Fleishman, a partner at the national law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, which represented the Zweigles, commented, "I applaud the Zweigles for their courage and determination to raise the publicâ€™s awareness of backover incidents involving children. If all companies agreed to install safety systems on all of their large vehicles, millions of children nationwide would no longer be at risk of being the victim of a backover crash."
â€œWe know young children are impulsive and have poor or no appreciation of risks obvious to adults,â€ stated attorney Fabrice N. Vincent of Lieff Cabraser. â€œEvery life is precious and automobile and truck makers, owners and operators should take action now to stop scores of toddlers from being killed year after year simply because they were in the blind zone of large vehicles.â€