Greg Gulbransen thought at first that maybe he'd backed over the newspaper.
The pediatrician had gone out at night to flip his BMW SUV around so that he wouldn't have to back out of his driveway in the morning when kids were headed to school. As he continued in reverse, his headlights lit up a scene that would change his life forever.
Gulbransen's son Cameron, 2, lay sprawled in the driveway. He had on blue pajamas, was holding a blanket and was bleeding heavily from his head.
"That's when life ended pretty much as I knew it," Gulbransen said Wednesday. "Complete and utter devastation. I still can't believe it happened."
Now, eight years after the October night in Woodbury when Gulbransen accidentally killed his son, the federal government is taking comment on a key provision of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act that's meant to prevent such tragedies.
After the 60-day comment period, announced Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers will be required to eliminate blind zones behind vehicles that can contribute to deaths like Cameron's. In practice, that means automakers will have to outfit new vehicles with monitors that display to those driving in reverse a live image of the blind zone. Such rearview cameras are already found in some luxury models.
Gulbransen said he's comforted that the law Congress passed in 2008 that bears his son's name is about to reach into the world and have such an impact.
"He was here for a short time," said Gulbransen, 47, "but he got a lot done. And we're happy about it."
Ten percent of new vehicles must meet the requirement by September 2012 and 100 percent by September 2014. The federal government estimates that the move will cost the auto industry as much as $2.7 billion and individual car purchasers an extra $159 to $203 per vehicle.
Federal safety regulators estimate that in an average year, 292 people are killed and 18,000 injuries occur due to back-over crashes. Some 228 of those fatalities involve common passenger vehicles, regulators estimate, with 44 percent of those deaths being children under 5 and 33 percent adults over 70.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) sponsored the Cameron Gulbransen bill that saw passage in 2008. It was 2003 when King first introduced the bill and he expressed satisfaction that the law was closer to having a tangible effect.
"This is a huge step forward in keeping our precious children safe from harm," King said.
Today, Greg Gulbransen lives with his wife, 7-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son in Syosset, about two miles from where Cameron, who would be 10 now, died.
With Gary Dymski