Advocates push for front-facing vehicle cameras to save children

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:


Bigger cars and trucks mean bigger blind spots up front, putting young lives at risk, as one family tragically learned earlier this year.

Seven-year-old Alissa was a fun-loving, cheery little girl who tragically died on Easter weekend, devastating her entire family. Her grandmother accidentally ran her over in the driveway. Alissa’s aunt, Lisa Ottendorf, spoke with WINK News for the first time about the family’s loss.

“Alissa was just the life of the room. She was, like, you know she was there, she was loud and funny. And I loved spending time with her,” Ottendorf said. “A family member thought everybody had exited and gone inside and later found out that [Alissa] had left something in the car. So, we’re assuming maybe she had gone back and wasn’t seen over the top of the vehicle. And the vehicle had backup camera, but not a front camera.”

Ottendorf says the family member, driving a minivan at the time, never saw Alissa.

“Our family takes it day by day; we have faith, and that’s the only way we’ve gotten through,” Ottendorf said. “And you can never bring her back. I mean, we miss her every day. It’s painful.”

Vehicles have a blind spot directly in front of the hood. The bigger the car, truck or SUV, the bigger the blind spot. The shift to bigger rides comes as deaths from frontover crashes grow. The U.S. Department of Transportation says such crashes have more than doubled in less than 5 years, going from killing 240 in 2016 to killing 526 people in 2020.

The victims are often small children.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal is calling for a fix. He wants new rules to make front-facing cameras and collision avoidance sensors standard in new vehicles.

“Safety should not be a premium feature,” Blumenthal said. “It should be standard, just like airbags and seatbelts.”

Parents are urging vehicle makers to install front-facing cameras. (CREDIT: WINK News)

The high-tech tool already exists on many models, but the camera is often a paid add-on. Rearview cameras, by contrast, have been required on all new vehicles since 2018. It’s a kind of technology that Amber Rollins of Kids and Cars helped push for.

“The goal is preventing children from being run over and other pedestrians and even pets,” Rollins said. “The majority of cases involve a driver that was a parent or a loved one of the child that was killed or injured… the worst part, the part that breaks your heart more than anything, is that it doesn’t have to happen.”

Alissa’s family knows that all too well.

“It’s trauma,” Lisa Ottendorf said. “I mean, it’s trauma like you never can imagine. The whole family is – I mean, it’s gut wrenching, heart breaking. Just think again, you just don’t think it can happen to you. You think that they’re gonna grow up and have a long healthy life? And you’re not supposed to, you know, survive past your kids? Right?”

If you don’t have a forward-facing camera in your vehicle already, you can buy one online for as little as $15, but installation may cost extra. You can get a BlueTooth version, which will cost you more.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation sent this statement:

“Safety is a top priority of the auto industry. Vehicles continue to get even more safe as automakers across the board test, develop and integrate new safety technologies that can help save lives and prevent injuries.”

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