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Back to School Safety - Introducing Elle's Law

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 Posted by Rita A

It is Back to School Time! With all the empty summer streets, it is always scary when traffic needs to adjust for back to school. Take a moment to read the story about Elle.

On September 23, 2009, 3-year old Elle Vandenberghe was struck by a motorist while she was on her way to school. The driver was in his SUV going south on York Avenue in Manhattan when, according to witnesses, he threw his car in reverse to get to a parking spot on East 82nd Street. The driver backed through a crosswalk – against a red light – and struck Elle, causing major head trauma. While Elle lay in a coma for two weeks – she suffered a stroke and lost 2/3rds of the left side of her brain – the driver got off with a traffic infraction, paying a small fine and facing no jail time. Elle remains in physical therapy to this day.

Fortunately, Elle has made a miraculous recovery and will be returning to school this fall, but many children have not been as lucky. The summer is long and drivers often forget that come fall, the streets will once again swarm with children heading to and from school. When a traffic accident involves a child, it is a tragedy that affects the entire family and its community. Unfortunately, in the majority of states in the US, there are no laws in place to deal with reckless drivers who are not under the influence of alcohol who harm pedestrians. New York, where Elle was struck, is one of those states. The driver only received a slap on the wrist - a minor traffic ticket! Why? Because he was not drunk. Elle’s mother was told that the only thing she could do is sue him.

Elle’s mother, Heather Vandenberghe, took a different approach. Instead of suing that one driver and receiving only limited compensation for a life that is priceless, Heather decided to take action to protect other children from being the victims of careless drivers and pushed through legislation that would create harsher penalties for reckless driving.

Last Friday, on August 13th, Governor Paterson signed “Elle’s Law” into law. Under Elle’s Law, any driver who causes serious physical harm to another person will committing a traffic violation will receive license suspension of up to a year.

Heather Vandenberghe, the mother of Elle said, “The main goal of ‘Elle’s Law’ has always been to protect pedestrians of all ages across New York State from suffering the same fate as my daughter. Elle’s Law will serve as a strong deterrent to motorists who might consider breaking traffic laws, and as a result will make our streets safer.”

Although this law only affects New York, it should serve as a wakeup call to every state that pedestrian safety cannot be overlooked and a reminder to parents everywhere that in order to keep back to school time fun and happy for everyone, it is crucial to keep traffic safety top of mind.

Visit Elle's Law Facebook page to show support for the intiative! I personally think it should be a nationwide law. Take it to the White House!

Disclosure: Information provided by DKC News. No monetary compensation was offered or accepted for this post. The opinions above are my own. Others experience may vary.

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