Lawmakers Present Legislation Attempting to Prevent Hot Car Deaths

The bill would require all new vehicles to have a child safety alert system

Lawmakers Present Legislation Attempting to Prevent Hot Car Deaths
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September 15, 2016

After a succession of child deaths due to being left in hot vehicles, lawmakers have introduced a bill intended to prevent more children from dying.

Representatives Tim Ryan, Peter King, and Jan Schakowsky today introduced a bill known as the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act.

This bill would require the Transportation Secretary to issue a rule requiring all new model passenger motor vehicles to have a child safety alert system. The term "alert" refers to any kind of signal, auditory and/or visual, "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."

In addition, the bill instructs the Secretary to provide a report to both the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to discuss 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." This report would be due no more than one year after the Act would go into effect.

Even though autumn has begun, many regions still have warm enough temperatures to heat a vehicle without any windows open to dangerous levels. Furthermore, advocates who announced the bill together with the lawmakers noted that the back-to-school season leads to new parent and caregiver routines that could result in forgetting about a child left in a vehicle.

"This year 29 children have already been killed in hot cars," Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety stated. "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."

KidsAndCars.org Founder and President Janette Fennell highlighted the fact that many modern vehicles already have reminder and alert systems for everything from buckling up to turning off headlights automatically to prevent 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 asked. "The choice is very easy. It's simple. What's more important? A dead car battery or a dead baby?"

Some manufacturers have already introduced such systems. GM debuted a new feature in June that sounds a warning tone and flashes a "Look In Rear Seat" message in the center of the speedometer.