Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Al Franken (D-MN) announced the introduction of the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (HOT CARS Act of 2017, S. 1666). This critical legislation addresses the tragic deaths of children unknowingly being left in vehicles. It requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to issue a final rule within 2 years requiring new vehicles to be equipped with a visual and auditory alert system to remind parents to check the rear seat. The Senate bill also requires a study on retrofitting cars with reminder systems.
Similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 7, 2017 by Representatives Tim Ryan (D-13th OH), Peter King (R-2nd NY) and Jan Schakowsky (D-9th IL). This legislation has already received widespread support. Many of the nation's prominent public health, consumer, safety and medical organizations, child advocacy groups, numerous families whose children have died or been injured due to vehicular heatstroke as well as one of the nation's leading experts in neuroscience and the brain memory system have endorsed the legislation.
Today's announcement coincides with the designation of July 31 as National Heatstroke Prevention Day.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
President Jackie Gillan stated, "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. 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."
"If there had been notification systems in vehicles, then hundreds of mothers just like me would still have the blessing of holding their children in their arms today," said Lindsey Rogers-Seitz. "Technology can account for researched and proven faults in human memory, and it can save children's lives," she continued. Lindsey Rogers-Steiz is the mother of Benjamin who died in 2014 at age 15 months of vehicular heat stroke. She has championed federal action on this issue and has met with lawmakers and government officials to advocate for a child reminder system in every new car.
A technological solution is essential because in the majority of cases, children are left unknowingly by caring and devoted parents or caregivers. Dr. David Diamond is a professor in the Departments of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida and an expert on neuroscience. Dr. Diamond said, "It is important to stress that these parents do not have a reckless disregard for the care of their children. Rather, common factors like a change in routine, lack of sleep, or even simple distractions can all have an effect on even the most responsible parents. From a brain science perspective, parents can, through no fault of their own, lose awareness of the presence of a child in the car. That is why it is imperative that there be a system to provide an alert to remind parents of the presence of a child in the back seat. This is a modern phenomenon which requires a modern solution."
"Since 1990, more than 800 children have been tragically killed in hot cars," said Janette Fennell, Founder and President of
. "At KidsAndCars.org we work tirelessly to educate parents and caregivers about the dangers of vehicular heatstroke. But education alone is not enough. Every summer, children are dying and families are suffering. We cannot stand by and allow these deaths to occur when technology is available and affordable to save a life.
Michelle and William Puckett added their support to the legislation. "The auto industry knows we are human and we can make mistakes" said William Puckett, Battalion Chief for Clark County Fire Department in Winchester, KY. "The many reminder systems already found in our vehicles confirm that. We need this simple addition to our cars added as quickly as possible. Quite literally; our children's lives depend on it. Families are grateful for the leadership of Senators Blumenthal and Franken and their concern for our children." William and Michelle Puckett are the parents of Bryan who died in 1999 from heatstroke when he was only 11 months old.