Statement of Lucinda Ecker

Statement of Lucinda Ecker

Atascadero, CA

March 23, 2004

Hello. I am Lucinda Ecker. My daughter Lisa and I are here to urge Congress to pass the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003. We ask that you do so in the memory of my daughter, Amy Ecker. We ask that you do so in the name of all those who are grieving over the loss of a loved one killed in an SUV rollover accident. And, above all, we ask in the name of public safety, so that others are not killed in a future SUV rollover accident.

Let me tell you about the Ecker family. In 1980, Frank and I were married. One year later, we began our small family when Amy was born. A precious bundle of love, Amy was often called an angel by our family and friends. Little did we know that she would be with us for only a short while, and that 20 years later, we would have to bury our first-born child.

 

Our second daughter, Lisa, was born 4 ½ years later. Amy relished her role as big sister, and gave Lisa her nickname, Lu. Even after Amy went off to college, she frequently returned home to attend Lu’s volleyball and basketball games, and to help her get ready for special high school dances. As sisters, they had their ups and downs, but they were deeply devoted to one another. I know that Amy would be proud of the young woman that Lisa has become.

 

On March 3, 2002, Amy’s life was filled with energy and purpose. A pre-med student at Pepperdine University, she had dreams of becoming a pediatrician. She and a classmate had been enjoying spring break and were getting ready to return to school. They drove over to our house and changed into their church clothes, and then attended church services that Sunday evening.

 

Little did Frank and I know that we would be saying our last good-byes to our darling daughter that night. As we look back, we realize that we were especially blessed that evening because Amy’s last look into our eyes was one that was full of light, enthusiasm and complete joy. Her smile is forever etched in our memories.

 

After church services had ended, the girls got into an SUV and began the three-hour drive back to Pepperdine. About an hour into the trip, Amy, who was a passenger in the SUV, called me on her cell phone to discuss who she’d seen at church that evening. We were having a very pleasant conversation when, out of the blue, I heard Amy exclaim: “Oh my God! Oh crap!”

Then, the phone went dead. That was the beginning of the Ecker family nightmare. Two and one-half hours later, we found out that Amy had died in that moment. She had been killed in an SUV rollover accident. The news of her death felt like a bomb had gone off in our living room. Now, it is just we three left to live and breathe in a whole new world that is empty and lonely without our Amy.

Amy is one of over 10,000 people who were killed in SUV rollover accidents in 2002, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If she had been involved in a plane crash that had killed any number of people, an investigation would have ensued and would have resulted in safety measures being taken by the airlines to protect the public and prevent such accidents from happening in the future. Yet, for the past 10 or 15 years, the automotive industry has been aware of the increasing number of deaths from SUV rollover accidents. But it has done little or nothing to improve the design of safety features in SUVs that would better protect passengers in the event of a rollover accident.

Many of you in this room today own an SUV. You have friends and relatives who own SUVs. How many more lives must be lost before the initiative is taken to make SUVs safer for passengers? I can’t imagine that anyone here would willingly want to become a death statistic or to suffer the loss of a loved one.

Please, open your hearts and help save innocent lives by seeing to it that the SAFETEA Act becomes the law of the land. May Amy’s death and, indeed, the lives of all of those who have died in SUV rollover accidents, not be in vain.

Thank you.

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