How Can a Man Who Runs Over and Kills His 2-Year Old Son While Backing Up His Car Become a Hero? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

How Can a Man Who Runs Over and Kills His 2-Year Old Son While Backing Up His Car Become a Hero?

The Streak Continues: 176

This post marks 176 consecutive days with a new educational blog post. Voting on the amazing Flight Category images will be open until early Tuesday morning. Please click here to vote.

The left knee and the left shoulder are doing great. After a day of rest and a 40 minute kicking session in the very cold (68 degrees F) pool at my Mom’s development yesterday the right shoulder is still hurting plenty. Range-of-motion has increased a bit today (albeit somewhat painfully). My Mom is doing just fine as is younger sister Arna.


This image was created at 6:05pm on Saturday afternoon past at Nickerson Beach with the hand held Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2 stops off a big grey cloud: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual Av mode was still a bit under-exposed. AWB.

One row down and fours sensors to the right of the Central Sensor/AI Servo-Surround/Rear Focus AF as framed active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Greg Gulbransen relaxing at Nickerson Beach. Image copyright 2014: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

How Can a Man Who Runs Over and Kills His 2-Year Old Son While Backing Up His Car Turn Tragedy Around and Become a Hero?

Ordinary People/Extraordinary Lives…

In 2008, Congress mandated that the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) pass a federal standard that would help prevent drivers from running over small children and the elderly while backing up their vehicles. At the end March 2014, after 3 years of repeated delays and stalling, NHSTA announced that in May 2018, all new cars and light trucks must be equipped with rearview cameras.

The agency acted one day before a federal appeals court was to hear arguments concerning the delays from a consortium of safety groups and two individual plaintiffs. According to the DOT more than 200 people are killed and 17,000 injured every year in backover crashes, when drivers back up over unseen objects behind them. Children under the age of 5 account for 44% of the fatalities. In a high percentage of those cases, the motorist is a parent or family member.

For children of all ages, an average of two die every week and 48 are injured when someone accidentally backs over them, says Janette Fennell, president and founder of, a nonprofit group that pushed the government to begin tracking such tragedies.

NHSTA, now playing the role of savior after years of needless delays, estimates that 58 to 69 lives will be saved each year once all vehicles on the road are equipped. What the hell were they waiting for?

One of the two individual plaintiffs was Dr. Greg Gulbransen. I had the pleasure of meeting Greg and photographing with him at Nickerson Beach yesterday afternoon. In 2002, thinking that his son Cameron was safely in the house with his wife Leslie, Greg backed over his son in the family’s driveway. Leslie, hearing impaired since childhood from meningitis, had not heard Cameron go outside. When Greg realized that something was amiss, he stopped, got out, and saw the horror.

There, in the dark, Cameron died in his Dad’s arms.

Cameron’s death and the family’s suffering will not go in vain. Though it took far too long, Greg’s involvement in getting the original law passed—Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton and local Republican Congressman Peter King–sponsored the original bill, and Greg’s dogged persistence were rewarded with the passage of the new regulation two months ago.

In addition to requiring the rear-view camera systems in new vehicles, the final rule establishes basic criteria for these systems. It is now mandated that the area behind a vehicle that must be visible to the driver when the vehicle is shifted into reverse be expanded from the current guidelines. That field of view will have to include a 10-foot by 20-foot zone directly behind the vehicle. And the system must meet other requirements as well, including the size of the image displayed for the driver. Greg testified at a Senate hearing and was instrumental in developing the language in the original bill.

Greg wrote in part in an e-mail last week:

I fought the fight and won the battle last month after 10 years of pushing, dealing with a president that disagreed with my mission, and an automobile industry lobbying hard against me tooth and nail. I was ridiculed on a national scale with my family watching the whole way….

Greg practices pediatrics in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. He lives happily in Syosset with wife Leslie, their 17 year NBA-fanatic son Scott, and their unexpected gift, 10-year old daughter Julia Grace. Greg very much wants to become a skilled nature photographer. I am betting on him.


This image of copulating Common Terns was created on Saturday afternoon past with the Wimberley V2 Head mounted Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR AF lens, a Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x Teleconverter for D-AF-S & AF-I lenses only, and the Nikon D4S DSLR.

ISO 800. Matrix metering +1 2/3 stops off the big grey cloud: 1/1600 sec. at f/5.6.

Common Terns copulating. Image courtesy of and copyright 2014: Greg Gulbansen

Image clean-up and optimization by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART


Thanks a stack to Greg for sharing the image above, for his friendship, and for his help with the article above. And most importantly, for being so open about sharing the details of his personal tragedy to help make the world a better place.

If you missed the tale of our great Saturday at Nickerson, click here to read “A Beyond Memorable Afternoon: Was It Worth It?”

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13 comments to How Can a Man Who Runs Over and Kills His 2-Year Old Son While Backing Up His Car Become a Hero?

  • avatar Eleanor Kee Wellman

    This horrifying family tragedy could have been mine but for some unknown reason we were lucky. My then husband returned home from work and pulled the Volkswagon Bug into the garage. He then remembered that we were going out that evening and backed the car out into the driveway. Our two year old son, hearing his father drive in, ran out of the backyard and was run over. He was totally unhurt. How, I don’t know.

    Once all vehicles are fitted with these cameras it will never have to happen again.

  • avatar marty silverstein

    Greg’s accomplishment is a tribute to the human spirit.
    Good to see that you’re out and about Artie.
    Marty Silverstein

  • That’s great that Greg didn’t give up & accomplished what must have seemed impossible; overcoming the influence of the Automobile Industry & putting the pressure on the NHSTA & the DOT, to comply with the mandate. But, how crazy that the back-up cameras won’t be required until 2018! When my son was little, Big Wheels were a popular new toy & I always worried that him or one of his friends would get run over by one of the neighbors backing out of their driveway in their SUV, which had also become popular around the same time. Once back-up cameras were available, they should have been standard on every car model. Greg is a hero & he’ll never know how many kids will get to grow up because he cared enough to get this law passed. His family must be very proud of him.

  • Thanks Art for posting Greg’s story and thank you Greg for your tireless fight. Greg you are a hero!

  • avatar Leonard Malkin

    I would like the rear view camera to be on all the time. If wide enough, it will show cars behind and beside the driver as well as people or cars not quite behind the car but coming close. I suspect there would have to be some sort of warning system so that the driver would not be distracted by constant attention to the screen.

    This whole story reminds one of the automobile industry’s obstinate objections, first to seat belts, and then to shoulder harnesses and air bags. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming until customers demanded these safety features due in part to public awareness of the toll taken by car accidents.

  • avatar Patrick Sparkman

    I was very happy a couple of weeks ago when I heard that car makers were being required to install backup cameras. I did not know about Greg’s story but imagined that there must of been some very heroic people behind it. I am glad that there are people willing to fight for positive change.

    BTW – Sorry Artie but IMHO the student’s image killed the Masters’. Beautiful shot Greg. Perfect subject position, I like the color and placement of the grass, and the head position of the female seals the deal.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Well spoken Patrick. Yes, a great image but only with my clean-up and optimization 🙂 Love to Robin. artie

  • avatar Bill Richardson

    Yes, about time. I drove a van delivery truck working summers in my college days 45 years ago. A child rode his tricycle behind the van into my blind spot and I was totally unaware of it as I backed out a driveway. I was horrified to hear my van hit something and even more horrified when I got out and saw a tricycle under the rear bumper. Luckily the toddler had gotten off and was walking down the sidewalk perfectly safe. Nevertheless, the potential damage has haunted me ever since. This will cost the auto companies a few dollars and auto companies are big campaign contributors. Of course, this was delayed. Saving a few dollars is more important than saving a few children to a lot of people/politicians.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Greg told me that the auto companies were against it because the made a lot more money off of each unit selling them as options than the will when it is required….

  • avatar cheapo

    Art, the original story made me cry all those years ago. I cried for the little one and I cried thinking of the devastation his dad must have felt. I’m pretty sure I could not live with that. Yes, I guess he is a hero in a way. He put himself through a kind of hell for this result. And yes to safety aids on vehicles. We always think it’ll never happen to us.

  • Such a tragic story, it is nice to hear that Greg has fought hard and won his battle. I am sure he can go to sleep knowing that he made the world a little better for everyone else. My heart instantly broke for him and his family. I wish him all the best and I will do whatever I can to help him reach his goal of being a skilled nature photographer.
    Greg, I look forward to our day at Nickerson and you are an inspiration to us all 🙂 . Thank you for sharing your story.
    BTW-Fantastic shot!!!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks and agree Neesie. Greg will be with us on the Nickerson Beach Baby Birds IPT :).