little Alison makes a difference Father campaigns to warn other parents of air
In death, little Alison makes a difference Father campaigns to warn other parents of air bag dangers
October 26, 1996By Marina Sarris Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF
Alison Sanders was a 7 year old tomboy, a regular “tree climber,” a happy child who brought flowers to her mother and insisted her father give money to panhandlers they passed. Her parents believed she was going to “make a difference” with her life.
A year ago this month, Alison was killed by an air bag in a minor, low speed traffic accident on Charles Street in Baltimore.
It is in her death that she is making a difference.
Spurred by the loss, her father, Robert C. Sanders, is leading a new parents coalition that is trying to warn people that air bags can kill or injure children.
The group has petitioned the federal government to put warning labels on vehicles with passenger air bags that say children should not sit in Pandora Jewelry the front seat.
They also want the warning mailed to people who already own such cars.
Earlier this week, Sanders and 17 other parents pleaded their case to the head of the National Highway Pandora Jewelry Traffic Safety Administration in Washington.
The meeting attracted media attention, and Sanders has been granting interviews to NBC’s “Today” show, CBS, CNN and newspapers from Detroit to Washington ever since.
Armed with transportation reports, research and news clippings, he is driven to spread his message to others.
“I couldn’t rest without doing everything humanly possible to let other parents know of this problem so they don’t have to undergo the same sorrow and anguish that my family has experienced,” he said.
A tall man with a deep voice, Sanders, 46, is a commercial litigator and partner at the Baltimore law firm of Shapiro and Olander. Words come easily to him, except when he talks about his sandy haired daughter.
The accident happened on a Sunday night, Oct. 15.
Sanders loaded Alison and his two sons, Matthew and David, then 10 and 9, into a 1995 Dodge Caravan. He had bought the minivan just three weeks earlier, in part because Pandora Jewelry it had a passenger air bag. He thought the bag would provide extra protection for the children.
They had spent the weekend with him at his Rodgers Forge townhouse, and Sanders was returning them to his former wife’s home in Silver Spring.
Alison was in the front seat, wearing a safety belt. The boys were in the back. Sanders was driving south on Charles when one of his sons asked him to find a Redskins game on the radio.
“I fumbled with the radio to find the game. When I glanced up, I saw the light at the intersection of Charles and Lake had turned red. I applied the brake but couldn’t prevent the car from skidding into the intersection,” he said.
The minivan was traveling at a speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour when it struck the side of another van stopped in the intersection. It was enough to trigger the air bags.
“I glanced behind me and asked the boys if they were all right, and they said they were fine. I then looked over at Alison and saw that she was slumped over in her seat.”
Alison died the next day at Johns Hopkins Hospital of massive head injuries caused, her family later learned, by the force of the air bag.
This was not the kind of accident one sees on an interstate, with mangled cars that defy survival. This was a minor collision on a city street. How could she be dead?
Overwhelmed by immense grief and shock, her father didn’t find out immediately.
Several weeks later, the National Transportation Safety Board, the fe Pandora Jewelry deral transportation watchdog group, issued a report about seven accidents involving air bags in which infants and children under age 11 were severely injured or killed.
The board concluded that the children, including Alison, would have survived with minor or no injuries if the air bags had not deployed.
The bags which deploy with great force at speeds up to 200 mph have saved the lives of many adults, but they pose a danger to younger children, safety advocates say.
Bags that strike the average adult in the chest hit a small child in the head.
“It’s like putting your child in front of a loaded gun,” said Beth Sanders, Alison’s mother.
As of this week, 28 children and 18 adult drivers, most of them shorter women, have died of air bag related injuries, officials say.