Twelve years ago, my niece, Madison Faith Chatten, died in Glasgow. She was just over a year old.
Her father, Aaron (my brother) and her mother, Sheena, were devastated. I was too. I remember Aaron calling me to let me know that his daughter, my niece, had been backed over by another parent at her daycare facility. But it may have been prevented, if only the other parent had been able to see what was behind her vehicle. She was driving a large SUV with a blind zone of more than 20 feet — more than enough to hide tiny Madison.
Aaron turned his grief into action, working with KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit that advocates for consumer protections that promote child safety in or around cars. For more than two decades, they have waded through miles of red tape to get our government to act and address dangerous engineering oversights in everything from power windows to gearshifts that cause preventable deaths, to a rear visibility standard. Aaron was proud to work with them, traveling across the country, educating people and our government about the dangers children face in and around motor vehicles and fighting to increase rear visibility to prevent small children, like Madison, from being backed over.
He began every speech with “I don’t want to be here,” and everyone knew why. He honored the memory of Madison by working to ensure no other family has to go through with what his did. His work paid off: In 2008, Congress passed a bill requiring a rear visibility standard so people no longer had to back up blindly which would help prevent children from being backed over. This was a tremendous victory that Aaron would have been proud to see implemented.
Unfortunately, he died before the law took effect, but it never would have become a reality without him.
Working on this issue gave Aaron an inside view into how Washington works. He learned that protecting our children requires working long after a law is passed to ensure that federal agencies implement the law. In the case of the rear visibility law, the government just kept delaying action, forcing KidsAndCars.org to sue the Department of Transportation to release the standard.
The government is already far too sluggish to make even basic safety updates. It took 16 years for the government to finally require seat belts, and a full 21 years to require airbags. A new bill in Congress would slow the government to a standstill, preventing the kind of safety measure that Aaron fought for from ever becoming a reality. Under the guise of “reform,” a bill called the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) would add a tangled web of red tape to implementing lifesaving protections. It will, quite simply, make it much more difficult to protect our health and safety. It puts consumer protections across the board at risk, from vehicle safety to bans on dangerous chemicals, to workers’ protections and food safety.
Aaron’s legacy was to protect other children and families from unimaginable tragedy, but this bill could undo the protections he worked for. I urge Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines to reject the RAA. Congress should be doing whatever we can to protect our kids — not paralyzing the process with red tape.
Madison and Aaron’s memories deserve better.
-- Amy Wiley’s brother, Aaron Chatten, was a resident of Montana, and an advocate for car safety following the death of his daughter