Lawmakers Introduce Bill Aimed At Preventing Hot Car Deaths

In an effort to keep children from dying in hot cars, three lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require car manufacturers to integrate technology capable of warning adults that there’s still a child in the backseat.

U.S. Representatives Tim Ryan (OH), Peter King (NY), and Jan Schakowsky (IL) introduced the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (HOT CARS Act of 2016) [PDF] today.

The bill would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue a rule requiring all new passenger motor vehicles be equipped with a child safety alert system.

By alert, the bill means any kind of auditory and/or visual signal “that will provide an effective warning to the driver of the passenger motor vehicle that a child or unattended passenger remains in a rear seating position after the vehicle motor is deactivated.”

The bill also instructs the Secretary to issue a report to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate, and the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House on the “feasibility of retrofitting existing passenger motor vehicles with technology to provide an alert that a child or unattended passenger remains in a rear seating position after the vehicle motor is deactivated,” no later than one year after the Act is enacted.

Although summer is technically over, in many regions it’s still warm enough to heat a car with no open windows to dangerous levels. Advocates who joined the lawmakers in announcing the bill also point out that back-to-school season means new routines for parents and caregivers could cause them to forget there’s a child they’ve left behind in the car.

“This year 29 children have already been killed in hot cars,” Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety said in a statement. “These deaths are happening year round. Even in mild temperatures, children unknowingly left in cars can quickly be in danger of death or serious injury.”

Janette Fennell, the founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, points out that we already have vehicles filled with reminder systems, for everything from alerts to buckle up, to cars that will turn off your headlights if you forget so you don’t get a dead battery.

“So if all of these reminder systems are possible; how can we allow children to continue to die in hot vehicles each and EVERY year?” she asks in a statement applauding the bill. “The choice is very easy. It’s simple. What’s more important? A dead car battery or a dead baby?”

Some automakers have already introduced new technology aimed at keeping kids from being stuck in overheating cars: in June, GM GM debuted a new rear seat reminder feature that sounds a warning tone and alerts drivers to “Look In Rear Seat,” with a message flashing in the center of the vehicle’s speedometer (as seen in the photo above).

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