April 19, 2004
Hello. I am Syndi Ecker. I am here to support the safety provisions of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003. I am doing so in the memory of my daughter, Amy Ecker. I am asking Congress to pass this law 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, I am asking in the name of public safety, so that others are not killed in a future SUV rollover accident.
I am wearing this shirt here today to symbolize the life of my daughter. This shirt, which has the price tag still attached, was purchased by Amy on the very day she was killed. The rose symbolizes her life still maturing and growing, and not yet ready for the petals to drop but for life to be renewed. The sparkle exemplifies Amy’s life and how she touched others – always with joy and happiness. How would she know that the black would signify death – her death?
Amy, born in 1981, was a precious bundle of love. She was often called an angel by our family and friends. On March 3, 2002, Amy’s life was filled with energy and purpose and she was a devoted older sister to our daughter, Lisa. Amy was a pre-med student at Pepperdine University and dreamed 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.
My husband Frank and I could not have known 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. 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. She had been wearing her seat belt, but was partially thrown from the vehicle due to the inadequacies in safety designs. The roof crushed – a design flaw costing less than $50 to fix – and the door latch and safety belt failed to keep her body inside the vehicle.
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, the automotive industry has been aware of the increasing number of deaths from SUV rollover accidents for years, but it has done little or nothing to improve the design of SUVs. Moreover, we have always been told that buckling our seat belts will keep us safe, but we now know that belts often fail to do the job, especially in rollovers.
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.