‘Worst day of my life.’ Mom recalls son’s death amid legislation to prevent fatal 'frontover' crashes
Kayla Tinnen’s youngest child should be turning 12 this month.
“Peter, amazing little rascal. That’s the only word I can think to describe him,” Tinnen said with a smile.
But Peter will forever remain 5 and a half. He died just a month before the end of kindergarten in a tragic accident on May 12, 2016.
“Worst day of my life,” Tinnen told News 12, shaking her head.
Peter was playing in the driveway at his grandparents’ house in Norwalk, something he did all the time, when his grandfather pulled in, but couldn't see his grandson from the driver's seat. Peter was hit and killed.
“There really is no way to make sense of it,” said Tinnen, who now lives in Bridgeport.
Peter was one of 240 fatalities that year in what's known as a "frontover" crash. The number more than doubled in 2020 to 526, according to the Department of Transportation. Experts say many of the victims were kids, like Peter.
“There's no question that the vehicles on our roads have just continually gotten larger,” explained Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports. “But this particular issue is about the idea that these very high hoods create these very large blind zones—not blind spots but blind zones.”
Consumer Reports tested 13 vehicles and found their blind zones ranged from 3.4 feet for one sports car to 15 feet for one full-size pickup truck. News 12 visited the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center in Colchester to get a first-hand look.
For our evaluations, Stockburger used a 28-inch cone, which she said is about the size of a walking toddler or what older kids would be if they were sitting down, maybe doing sidewalk chalk in front of the vehicle.
She showed News 12 three vehicles, the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Cadillac Escalade and the Ford F-150. Using a tape measure and with reporter Marissa Alter in the driver’s seat, Stockburger walked the cone forward until Alter could see the top inch of it. Her blind zones ranged from 6 feet to 11 feet.
“That’s a lot of kids or certainly kids that are playing that could be in front of that vehicle, and you as the driver just can’t see them,” explained Stockburger.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal has proposed legislation to make front-facing cameras, or sensors, mandatory in all cars. That technology is available but usually a feature you have to pay more for.
It's one that might have prevented the death of Tinnen's son.
“So many people think that something like this is a luxury. It's a bell or whistle to add along with heated seats and a heated steering wheel. This is something that could be life or death,” Tinnen said. “It could save thousands of little kids from getting hit by a car and families struggling through the misery and the division and the heartache that it causes.”
Blumenthal’s bill, called the STOP Frontovers Act, is similar to one passed in 2008 to improve rear blind zone safety. That took about a decade to fully go into effect. Backup cameras have been required on all new vehicles since 2018.