3 On Your Side
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Taylor Grace Warner was almost 17 months old when she was killed in a crash.
"We were sitting at the intersection waiting to turn into our neighborhood, and all of a sudden, there was this impact, and we got pushed 100 yards down the road," Taylor's dad, Andy Warner, told 3 On Your Side.
Taylor was buckled into her car seat. Andy was sitting in front of her in the driver's seat. It broke in the crash, collapsing back onto the toddler. "She was just starting to become her own person, walking and starting to talk a little bit," her mom, Liz, said.
The crash happened in 2010. For years, the Colorado couple has shared the story of their daughter's life and tragic death in hopes of saving other families from the agony they've experienced.
"When we were in the emergency room, one of the doctors said you really ought to look at seatback failures because this is the fourth one we've seen in the last month," Andy recalled.
Crash test video shared with 3 On Your Side shows the potentially devastating impacts when a front car seat collapses in a rear collision. Jason Levine, the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, has known about the dangers of seatback failures for decades yet has not updated seatback safety requirements and regulations.
"You can have a seat that is no safer in a banquet chair, a lawn chair, in terms of its strength and protection it provides you, which is really just unconscionable in a moment when we have so much other safety and technology in our cars," Levine said. "It's basically across the board. A few manufacturers have tried to play with making their seats a little bit better, a little bit more crashworthy, but for the most part, it hasn't been consistent, and there's no standard that requires that sort of change in how you create the seat and how you protect passengers."
This week, Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) reintroduced legislation, the Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act, that would require NHTSA to update its standards for seatback strength in new vehicles. It is endorsed by multiple organizations, including Consumer Reports, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America, and KidsandCars.org .
"Parents are told, and the laws require that our children are transported correctly restrained in the back seat," said Janette Fennell, the president of KidsAndCars.org . "Unfortunately, many families find out how weak the 1967 standard is for seatback strength only after their child has been killed."
The Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act is part of a package of auto safety legislation, including bills to help alert drivers about recalls, study driver-monitoring systems, and update an early warning system to catch potentially dangerous defects in vehicles earlier.
"Every year on average, over 36,000 people are killed, and nearly three million more are injured in motor vehicle crashes," said Sen. Markey in a statement. "These numbers reveal a public health crisis that we must not accept as inevitable."
"The big picture here is there are a lot of relatively simple, easy to access solutions for a long-standing safety concerns that these bills attempt to tackle," Levine told 3 On Your Side.
This time around, Liz and Andy are hopeful the Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act will be signed into law, and they've vowed to keep fighting for Taylor and for other families. "It's a marathon, not a sprint," Andy said. "But marathons shouldn't last 50 years."
"It's definitely important for us just to honor Taylor's memory and move forward and have something that we know we did as a family to help prevent the loss of life for other families," Liz added. "It was just a short little life, but it seems like she was sent to us for a reason, and we kind of feel like this was the reason."
A spokesperson for NHTSA told 3 On Your Side the agency does not comment on pending legislation.