INVESTIGATES: Local push for car front-end cameras after girl’s death

“Alissa was just the life of the room. She’d let you know she was there,” Lisa Ottendorf said.

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A vibrant and caring 7-year-old girl’s life was taken too soon, from what family members said was a preventable accident.

“We’re unloading the car and a family member thought everybody had exited, gone inside and later found out she had left something in the car and she had gone back... wasn’t seen on top from the vehicle,” explains Ottendorf.

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At a family gathering over the Easter weekend, Alissa’s grandmother drove forward, not seeing her granddaughter and tragically running her over.

Now, Ottendorf, Alissa’s aunt, is speaking to Action News Jax for the first time about the family’s loss. “It was a terrible tragedy, but she’s a tiny little thing... she was 7, just shy of her 8th birthday,” Ottendorf said. “She just couldn’t be seen.”

Ottendorf said her mother, who was driving a Honda Odyssey at the time, never saw her niece. Vehicles have a blind spot directly in front of the hood. The bigger the car, truck, or SUV, the bigger the blind spot.

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The shift to bigger rides increases the risk of deaths from frontover crashes.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, frontover crashes have more than doubled in less than five years — killing 526 people in 2020.

Experts said the victims are often small children.

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U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut submitted a bill to make front-facing cameras and collision avoidance sensors standard in new vehicles.

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

This is why Kids and Cars, a nonprofit organization, helped push for this. Now, it is doing the same for front safety devices.

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“The goal is preventing children from being run over and other pedestrians and even pets. The majority of cases involve a driver that was a parent or a loved one of the child that was killed or injured,” Amber Rollins with Kids and Cars said.

Alissa’s family is working with the nonprofit to make sure no other family has to endure the same tragedy. They plan to call on other lawmakers to support the bill.

“So I hope people reach out to their state senators to their local congressman and ask them to support or sponsor the bill,” said Ottendorf.

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