For decades, family members who have lost children due to hot car tragedies have been sharing their deeply personal and exceedingly painful stories. While legislative efforts to require technology will not bring back their children, we must continue to push forward to eradicate this deadly but solvable problem. Meanwhile, children continue to die at an alarming rate,
39 already this year,
because nobody believes this could happen to them. Last year exceeded the national average of 38 deaths per year by 42% and was the worst year ever with the loss of
54 little souls
Unfortunately, the voluntary agreement issued today by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers falls short of addressing hot car tragedies in an effective and comprehensive manor.
Voluntary agreements are just that…voluntary.
Voluntary agreements do not protect consumers. They are non-binding and unenforceable. The lives of children are too important to depend on them.
In fact, GM announced in 2001 with a great amount of fanfare that they would ‘voluntarily’ install a system that could detect the presence of an infant beginning in 2004. Fifteen years later, GM has failed to live up to their ‘voluntary’ promise.
While the public waits for these systems to be offered as standard equipment at the pace determined by the manufacturers, families continue burying children week after week after week.
Technology has already surpassed the extremely low standards set by the auto association’s voluntary agreement. This allows manufacturers to put a premium on safety. The last thing we need is more abdication of authority on the part of the Department of Transportation.
“This is an outrageous attempt by the automakers to avoid an enforceable safety standard. They should have added detection systems to their vehicles decades ago when auto manufacturers told all parents to move their children to the back seat due to the decision of some auto makers to install overpowered airbags,” said Joan Claybrook, former administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“When we take our children to the hospital, parents expect the most up-to-date technology to treat our children. Why would we accept substandard protections for children in our vehicles when we know more effective and affordable solutions are available? It would be like asking the doctors to treat your child with the outdated methods used 5 years ago,” said Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org.
The auto associations have acknowledged the need for technology to prevent hot car tragedies. In light of this announcement, the automakers should have no problem with supporting
The Hot Cars Act
), which has garnered
. This bill mandates the NHTSA to issue a rule that requires technology to detect the presence of an occupant so that ‘all’ children are protected in ‘all’ cars at ‘all’ times.
Not all systems are created equal.
The proposed agreement is inadequate and will give families a false sense of security. A simple ‘alert’ to check the back seat when the engine is turned off is not enough. A major concern with this type of system is that it would not address the nearly one-third of hot car deaths involving children who gain access to a vehicle on their own and become trapped inside.
In order for a system to be effective and comprehensive, the system must be able to ‘detect’ the presence of a rear seat occupant, not just ‘infer’ that there ‘might’ be one.
Lifesaving technology that can ‘detect’ the presence of an occupant inside a vehicle is available, affordable and advancing every day. There are a number of suppliers throughout the country and worldwide that have developed and made available effective occupant ‘detection’ systems.
KidsAndCars.org and the over 900 families whose children have died in hot cars have been waiting for over 20 years for an effective system to be installed in all vehicles.