New invention alerts drivers in rollover accidents

FRESNO, Calif.

Thursday, July 22nd. One of the deadliest crashes in valley history takes place on a dark stretch of highway early that morning. C.H.P. officers scramble to help save lives but three are pronounced dead at the scene. Three others would later die at the hospital.

The driver of a taxi cab narrowly missed the overturned S.U.V. that morning and says he's lucky to be alive. "We were going up to the crest as soon as we went over the crest there was a car sitting on its side blacked out no lights no nothing and I just barely missed it. He just broadsided it, exploded into pieces everywhere," said Mike Coupland.

Eric Carpenter was not involved in the accident nor is he related to anyone hurt or killed in the crash. He's a nine year veteran of the L.A. Fire Department.

"I think it's unfortunate. I think it could have been prevented."

Carpenter is also a first responder who's been involved in hundreds of rescues in both urban and rural areas throughout Southern California.

"Had they had some sort of emergency undercarriage lighting system, they could have potentially seen them. Taken measures to avoid them and it could have been prevented," said Carpenter.

Carpenter invented the E.R.V.A.L. system -- it stands for an Emergency Rollover Vehicle Awareness Light.

Action News traveled to carpenter's home in Southern California to see his invention first hand. The prototype features four L.E.D. lights which would be installed in the undercarriage of a car or SUV. A protected sensor is also connected to the flashing lights.

"The second your vehicle is at a 45 degree angle in any way shape or form whether it would be front to back, side to side however your lights, these LED's would kick on automatically. The driver would have to do nothing," said Carpenter.

Carpenter produced a video demonstrating how the E.R.V.A.L. system would work on an SUV. With the L.A. Fire Department's help -- crews dropped it 200 feet down a cliff to simulate a real life rescue.

You can see the lights flashing in the darkness. Carpenter claims it can be seen from at least a mile away.

The California Highway Patrol declined Action News' request for an interview about the E.R.V.A.L. system chances as a potential vehicle safety device. The CHP also won't comment on the Greyhound investigation which they say isn't complete. But they did re-create the crash scene which took place on the other side of this fence.

Action News was there three-weeks ago when investigators used the same dark blue Chevy Trailblazer for their crash simulation. Tow truck drivers pulled the SUV into position with its undercarriage facing oncoming traffic in the fast lane. Investigators spent the overnight hours going through all different types of scenarios trying to determine at what point was the SUV in clear view.

Carpenter says his E.R.V.A.L. system would have easily alerted drivers of the dangers ahead. "These accidents happen very frequently so if my system can help prevent further loss of life that's my ultimate goal."

Carpenter's biggest challenge right now is the automotive industry. He currently has a patent application pending and says the car companies won't meet with him until he gets a patent approved -- which could take years. But carpenter says that won't stop him. His hope is that one day his E.R.V.A.L. system will be standard equipment like the air bag and just as effective at saving lives.

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