car back seat
Cute baby in a car seat in the car

Proposed Bill to Help Prevent Child Car Deaths

On National Heatstroke Prevention Day, a newly-introduced bill would require cars to come equipped with alert sensors to check back seats for children.

A new bill has been introduced that would require cars to alert drivers to check the back seat once it is turned off.

The Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seat Act (HOT CARS Act), a bill backed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Al Franken (D-MN), is aimed to help prevent heatstroke deaths of children trapped in hot cars.

“A simple sensor could save the lives of dozens of children killed tragically in overheated cars each year, and my bill would ensure such technology is available in every car sold in the United States,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “It can take mere minutes on a hot day for a car to turn into a deathtrap for a small child. This basic technology, combined with public awareness and vigilance, can help prevent these catastrophes and safe lives.”

According to National Safety Council’s State of Safety report, 29 children already have died after being left or trapped in hot cars. Thirty states support some type of legislation to combat the issue.

The technology required to alert drivers already is available in some vehicles, but it is not commonplace yet. The bill, if passed, specifically would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require cars to have alert systems installed. The NHTSA also would contract with an independent third-party to study retrofitting existing vehicles.

“This weekend two more children tragically died due to heatstroke because they were unknowingly left in a car.  A total of 30 children have already died this year and we expect the number of deaths to rise as temperatures climb over the next few months,” said Jackie Gillan, president, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in a statement. “These deaths are agonizing, they are completely avoidable and there is technology that should be in every car to save lives. Today’s announcement of Senate introduction of S. 1666, the HOT CARS Act of 2017, brings us another step closer to solving this deadly problem once and for all.”

Babies and young children are unable to regulate their body temperatures, allowing their core body temperatures to rise up to five times faster than adults. Temperatures as low as 60 degrees can be dangerous for children left in cars.

“We lose an average of 37 children each year because too many adults do not look before they lock,” said Amy Artuso, senior program manager for child passenger safety at the National Safety Council in a statement. “While we need to help parents understand what they can do, legislation is an important layer of protection to help prevent these deaths. We applaud Senators Blumenthal and Franken for introducing this bill and going the extra step to protect our most precious cargo.”

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