September 5, 2019
Senator Roger Wicker
Chairman, Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee
555 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Wicker,
We know that the issue of children dying in hot cars has been a major safety priority of yours especially because it has affected Mississippi families. Tragically, yet another MS child has died in a hot car just 3 weeks ago which reinforces why this issue is so very important. Twenty-one-month-old Lincoln Knox Dodds, died in Booneville, MS, after being unknowingly left inside a hot car by his father.
Unfortunately, the voluntary agreement announced yesterday by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers falls short of addressing hot car tragedies in an effective and comprehensive manner. The announcement by automakers sets the industry on a dangerous path toward implementing technology that leaves parents and caregivers with a false sense of security.
We stand behind and agree with the statement issued by the Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).
“We appreciate that the automotive industry is finally recognizing what we have been saying for years: auto manufacturers can and should be doing everything they can to help parents prevent the hundreds of infant deaths caused by hot cars. While this is a big step in the right direction, the past has shown that voluntary commitments don’t necessarily result in meaningful action. Congress must be vigilant and continue to pursue legislation that requires these companies to take the necessary steps to protect children and holds the companies accountable.”
We are all too familiar with the auto industry’s propensity to announce their intention to add safety technology to their vehicles, but then never follow through on their commitments. A letter was sent to Ms. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors on August 13, 2019, by 50 forever-grieving parents and family members who have suffered the loss of babies and young children in preventable hot car tragedies.
The letter points out that GM’s promise 18 years ago to begin installing child detection systems still remains unfulfilled despite reasonably priced and effective technology that is available. “We urge you to follow through on GM’s 2001
to install a child reminder system by 2004 that detects the presence of a child in the rear seat rather than merely discloses that the rear door has been opened,” the letter stated, adding, “A system that detects the presence of a child will also address the problem of children who independently climb into unoccupied vehicles, representing nearly 30 percent of the identified hot car fatalities annually.”
Without a minimum performance standard to verify the systems’ effectiveness and an enforceable requirement that it will be installed in all new cars, lives will still be lost.
Another important provision in the Hot Cars Act of 2019 calls for an independent functional safety performance study of aftermarket technologies to be managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This study will provide recommendations for consumers on how to select such technology or products that are effective and can be used successfully to save lives.
Families in Mississippi and in every state greatly appreciate your concern for children needlessly dying in hot cars. We look forward to working with you to ensure affordable and available technology that detects the presence of a child and alerts the driver will be standard equipment on all vehicles. Directing DOT to issue a rule will ensure all children in all vehicles are protected by an effective system.
We call upon you and Congress to pass legislation that directs DOT to issue a standard that will detect the presence of a child and alert the driver. Doing anything less will continue to jeopardize the safety of children.
On behalf of KidsAndCars.org and the families who have lost children due to vehicular heatstroke, we know we can count on you to protect our little ones who cannot protect themselves. We urge you to bring hot car legislation to the Senate floor that will be an effective and comprehensive solution to this deadly problem.
Janette E. Fennell
President and Founder
Senator Marie Cantwell
Senator Richard Blumenthal
Senator Jerry Moran