Janette Fennell used her traumatic experience of being locked in a car trunk at gunpoint to ensure a Federal Regulation was passed so internal trunk releases would be standard equipment on all vehicles. Her four-year successful crusade to make car trunks escapable is an important testament to the power of survivors to change public policy. She then went on to form KidsAndCarSafety.org a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing injury and death to children. She is recognized as the national leader for child safety as it relates to the dangers children face in and around motor vehicles with an in-depth specialty regarding events that take place off public roads and highways; most commonly referred to as nontraffic incidents.
Passage of the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act was led by Ms. Fennell which requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the first time to set a rear visibility standard for all passenger vehicles. This 2008 law also requires that vehicles cannot be taken out of gear unless you have your foot on the brake, educates the public about nontraffic dangers and requires NHTSA to collect data about incidents that take place on private property. Other safety provisions she has successfully worked to secure are safer power window switches, seat belt safety reminders for all seating positions and the requirement for a technical study to be conducted regarding the feasibility of a driver-alert system to notify a driver if children are left behind in vehicles.
Congress, professional organizations, the media and parents suffering the loss of a child seek out Ms. Fennell. She has testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action for the “Justice Delayed: The Human Cost of Regulatory Paralysis” hearing. Ms. Fennell has testified before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for the “Auto Safety: Existing Mandates and Emerging Issues” hearing in Washington, DC on May 18, 2009; and has also testified before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection for the “Reauthorization of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration” in Washington, DC on June 23, 2005 regarding vehicular safety for children.
Ms. Fennell has participated in thousands of television, radio and newspaper interviews including appearances on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, CNN, ABC Primetime, Dateline, Lifetime TV, the CBS Early Show and NPR to name a few.
Ms. Fennell has received numerous national awards such as a 2011 Safety Champion and 2002 Public Service Award from NHTSA, an American Academy of Pediatrics injury prevention award, the 2007 National Community Champion award from the Civil Justice Foundation, the 2006 Outstanding Achievement in Childhood Safety Award from Safe Kids Kansas, as well as the 2004 Distinguished Alumni award from the University of Wisconsin.
Janette makes her home in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons.
Meet The Team
The team behind the organization that keeps pushing safety standards forward.
Amber Rollins is the Director of KidsAndCars.org. Ms. Rollins graduated from the University of Kansas (Go Jayhawks!) with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare.
Ms. Rollins worked at Community LINC in Kansas City, MO a transitional housing program to end homelessness, impact poverty and remove barriers to self-sufficiency for families.
Ms. Rollins has always had a passion for helping others. She has been a provider and steadfast advocate for the developmentally disabled in many different arenas inspired by her sister. Ms. Rollins is also very passionate about animal protection and welfare.
Ms. Rollins began her career in injury prevention with KidsAndCars.org in 2005. She manages national public safety campaigns and major projects, develops strategic partnerships, coordinates the national family advocate program and volunteer network as well as media relations, grant writing and day-to-day operations. She also diligently maintains the organization’s unique national data collection system and analysis on nontraffic incidents.
Ms. Rollins has been featured in hundreds of local and national television, radio and newspaper interviews and regularly conducts safety presentations. She has testified before the Kansas House and Senate Judiciary Committees and has helped pass legislation on the national and state level. Ms. Rollins is a co-author of a first of its kind study Unintentional non-traffic injury and fatal events: Threats to children in and around vehicles published in Traffic Injury Prevention in 2017 as well as Pediatric Heatstroke Fatalities Caused by Being Left in Motor Vehicles, published in Pediatric Emergency Care in 2020.
Ms. Rollins currently resides in Olathe, KS with her son, boyfriend, his 3 children and beloved cats (Jackson and Charlie).
Sue Auriemma is a VP for KidsAndCarSafety.org. She graduated from Tufts University with a BS in Mathematics then went on to earn an MS in Elementary Mathematics Education at Columbia Teachers College. A former First Grade teacher, Ms. Auriemma has spent the last 21 years raising her three children. During that time she began to develop a passion for pedestrian safety and co-founded a local civic organization to address issues and auto in her community. It was there that Ms. Auriemma began to learn about the roles of advocacy, data collection and education as a means to promote injury prevention.
In May 2005, a personal event changed Ms. Auriemma’s life. As she backed her SUV out of her driveway, her then 3 1/2-year-old daughter suddenly darted out of the house and behind the vehicle and was struck by it. Unable to see her in the large blind zone, Ms. Auriemma learned what the major contributing factor to an epidemic called “backovers” really was… lack of rearward visibility. Thankfully her daughter suffered only minor injuries but the incident motivated her to find out how often this was happening and why. Ms. Auriemma realized that as she was already established as a safety advocate that if this could happen to her, it could happen to anyone and that sharing her story via education efforts could be critical in preventing future incidents. Ms. Auriemma worked with KidsAndCarSafety.org to ensure passage of federal legislation that resulted in all new vehicles coming with a rearview camera as standard equipment. She has gone on to work with the KidsAndCarSafety.org to educate parents and all drivers as to the dangers that exist in and around motor vehicles, recenlty focusing on eliminating hot car deaths and injuries.
Ms. Auriemma has presented at the NHTSA Region 2 CPST Conference and also does outreach via local safety fairs. She has been interviewed by many local and national news outlets including CNN, ABC Nightly News, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox & Friends and The Weather Channel.
Ms Auriemma was named an honoree of the Long Island Press Fortune 52, and has received the “Smart Growth Award” from Vision Long Island in 2006. Additionally she was named to the “Women’s Roll of Honor” in the Town of North Hempstead in 2007 and was named a “Woman of Distinction” by NY State Senator Craig Johnson in 2008 and by NY State Senator Jack Martins in 2015. Ms. Auriemma also received the “Highway Safety Hero Award” from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in 2014.
Susan Pepperdine is a volunteer serving as Public Relations Consultant for KidsAndCarSafety.org. She uses her professional writing and public relations skills to communicate the life-saving messages of KidsAndCarSafety.org to new parents and caregivers, and to educate the public, legislators and regulators about the positive changes needed to prevent the tragic deaths of children in and around motor vehicles.
Ms. Pepperdine has been involved in charitable causes for more than four decades, including co-founding a nationally accredited humane organization, Animal-Kind Inc. in 1973, and serving on the national board of the Humane Society of the United States from 1984 to 1990. She has served on the board of the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame since 2012. She has won PR and communications awards for projects completed for charitable organizations, including Animal-Kind Inc., the Kansas Head Injury Association, and Mattie Rhodes, a family and community development center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Ms. Pepperdine founded the PR firm of Pepperdine & Associates Inc. in 1992. Which marked its silver anniversary in July 2017. Earlier in her career she held PR and management positions with Hallmark Cards, Kansas City Power & Light and two ad agencies: Barkley and Marketing Resources of America (now The frank Agency). She is an honors journalism graduate of the University of Missouri, and also attended Kansas State University, William Jewell College and Quincy College (now University) in Illinois, her hometown.
Deona Ryan-Bien became a Volunteer Parent and advocate for prevention of hot car deaths after the tragic loss of her one-year-old daughter, Aslyn Paige Ryan, in 2004. Her dedicated mission became one of preventing families experiencing the loss or injury of a child in a hot car. She has shared her expertise and experience as a speaker at prevention conferences throughout the United States. She actively participates and contributes in various national educational campaigns, as well as, supports community awareness efforts through media locally and nationally. In addition, she actively advocates for State and Federal protections to promote child safety in and around cars.
In 2007, after testifying for Hawaii Legislation about her experience of losing a child to heatstroke, Deona was asked by the Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, to be present with the bill signing ceremony in honor of her daughter. The law created a clause for Good Samaritans in the rescue of a child in a car and added educational components for the state. The law educates the Hawaii community within the State drivers examinations and visitors to Hawaii when renting cars.
Deona holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Science for Executive Leadership in Nursing in which she was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society for Nursing in 2016 for academic aptitude. Deona is a Certified Lactation Counselor through the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice, a Legal Nurse Consultant, a Change Agent and Six-Sigma Greenbelt, and is a TeamSTEPPS Master Trainer through AHRQ to promote quality and safe delivery of healthcare.
Deona has received awards for her advocacy as the first recipient of the Aslyn Ryan Community Volunteer award through the Pima County Child Abuse Prevention Council in 2005, recognition as a Fabulous 50 Nurses of Tucson in 2006, Community Volunteer Winner through Winner Circle Magazine in 2007, and a Top 10 Woman to Watch through the Summerville Journal Scene in 2013.
She currently resides in Summerville, South Carolina with her family and her dog Anderson Cooper.
Susan Morgan Cooper
Susan Morgan Cooper is an award-winning documentary producer and director. Her latest film, To The Moon and Back, had a Congressional Screening on Capitol Hill in June 2016. This screening succeeded in re-opening talks with the State Department about the Russian Adoption Ban. President Putin blamed the subject of her film, Miles Harrison, for the Adoption Ban because his adopted Russian infant died of heatstroke after Miles unknowingly left him behind in a car.
In doing the research for her film, Susan was shocked to discover that this phenomena happens with grisly regularity. In the United States, 1 child dies from hyperthermia in a hot car every 9 days. Having an up-close understanding of how families are left utterly devastated by these tragedies, Susan began production on her upcoming film, Fatal Distraction. Working closely with Janette Fennel, she sincerely hopes this film will influence Congressional lawmakers and automobile companies to pass the recently introduced HOTCARS ACT.
The welfare of children has always been of paramount importance to Susan. She has screened her films to audiences all across the United States, including at the National Safety Conference in North Carolina. Many first responders; firemen, policemen and paramedics thanked her profusely for changing their attitude towards parents who unknowingly leave their children behind in cars. She is passionate about protecting children – whether that’s helping special needs orphans in Russia caught in the ban or infants dying of heatstroke in cars.
Sondra L Morgan
Sondra Morgan joined the organization in 2003 when she contacted Janette Fennell on her platform for the Mrs. Minnesota pageant. Sondra’s desire was to learn how these hot car tragedies could happen. Like so many people, who ask themselves, how could a parent leave their child in a car? With the help and guidance of Ms. Fennell, Sondra was able to understand the dynamics of how this does and can happen to any well-meaning parent or caregiver. She designed her platform “Look ..then Lock” as a catalyst to bring awareness nationwide on this issue. Sondra was adamant about her platform that parents and caregivers always check/look in the back seat before locking their vehicle. KidsAndCarSafety.org in partnership with Sondra revised the slogan to “Look Before You Lock” which is known nationwide today. Sondra wanted to make this slogan as prevalent as “Don’t Drink and Drive” and “Click it or ticket”. With the help of KidsAndCarSafety.org, her idea became a reality when it was adopted by NTHSA (National Traffic and Safety Administration). Today you see such reminders at stores like Walmart and on the Weather Channel.
Sondra continues to her work with KidsAndCarSafety.org as a VP for Minnesota and Massachusetts. She is also trying to get the Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Safety Act passed in each state. She has testified before the Minnesota Senate committees on this bill and will continue to work on them until they are brought into law. Sondra has been a spokesperson for Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota, Board Member for Grace Place, Member of the Citizen Review Panel on Child Abuse issues and chaired such major events as the Winona Health Annual Birthday Ball, Winona Community Foundation and was seen on MTV Super Sweet 16, as the Event Coordinator for one of the series.