Responsibilities at the Trauma Foundation
I had a brief contract with the Trauma Foundation in the early 2000’s,
but my partnership with the Trauma Foundation goes far deeper.
Here’s how I became a survivor advocate. On the evening of October 28, 1995, as our car pulled into our garage, two armed men rolled underneath our closing garage door, put my husband and me into the car trunk and sped off. All of this took place while we had no idea what the abductors had done with our 9-month-old son. We were robbed, locked in the trunk, and left to die in a desolate city park. My husband managed to find the cable that ran from the key lock to the trunk release and opened the trunk. We called the police who found our son in his car seat unhurt outside our home. We were shaken but okay. The officer managing this incident said: “It never ends this way!”
After trauma counseling and some distance in space and time, I vowed to do everything in my power to make sure people could no longer be locked helplessly inside a car trunk. We formed the advocacy organization, TRUNC (Trunk Releases Urgently Needed Coalition). When I asked people for advice about how to achieve our objective of getting trunk releases mandated, Andrew McGuire’s name was mentioned over and over. I met him, then Liz McLoughlin. With their guidance, I focused my energies on the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) who is the federal agency responsible for keeping Americans safe on our roads and highways as well as ensure the vehicles we drive are safe. But NHTSA recorded only crashes on public roads, not deaths and injuries caused by cars that took place on private property. I wrote letters to auto manufacturers, found data in newspapers and online, compiled statistics, appeared in the media, and kept pushing hard for trunk releases. Nothing is easy, but we advocates were determined. After years of working towards our goal, in the fall of 2000, NHTSA announced that all cars manufactured after September 2001 for sale in the US would have an internal trunk release.
Liked most about the Trauma Foundation
At the Trauma Foundation, I found nurturing and mentorship within a diverse group of people who “got it.” I became part of an organization with an incredible amount of experience. Staff wanted to make the world a better place. Andrew and Liz taught me that injury prevention was what I was doing, and shared their skill in advocacy, data management and analysis, networking and perseverance. Donna helped me place “got kids” on milk cartons. And Lou Fannon produced what I needed every time I asked for something.
Learnings still usefulAlmost everything! I use my advocacy skills on a daily basis. Liz McLoughlin and I co-authored a booklet entitled “Channeling Grief into Policy Change” which is still pertinent; I recommend it to new survivor advocates and those working with them. I also learned an important lesson: to respond to cries for help. (See below.) Very few other survivor advocates move beyond the trauma that activated them.
Hearing about our success with trunk releases, people called us about losing
children who were backed over in driveways, or caught by power windows, or
left behind in cars during warm weather. So KidsAndCars.org was
formed and works to keep young children safe in and around motor vehicles.
Our major achievement so far is the passage of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids
Transportation Safety Act of 2007, which includes NHTSA's agreement to record
injuries and deaths occurring in and around cars on private property.
I testified before Congress on “Auto Safety: Existing mandates and Emerging Issues”, and at the Washington DC Press Club on power windows. We have a presence on Twitter and Facebook. I also serve on the board of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and am a trustee of the Civil Justice Foundation.
Our organization is based on five pillars: 1) data collection; 2) education and public awareness; 3) regulation and product redesign; 4) legislation; 5) survivor advocacy. Somehow, the Trauma Foundation left its mark here too.
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Email address: janette at KidsAndCars.org or 913 327-0013