Washington, D.C. (May 12, 2021) – Today, U.S. Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH-13th) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9th) introduced the Hot Cars Act during a virtual press conference ( view recording ), a critical piece of legislation requiring new vehicles to be equipped with inexpensive, existing technology that can detect the presence of an occupant inside when the engine is off and alert the driver and/or others to prevent hot car injuries and deaths.
Since 1990, nearly 1,000 children have died in hot cars. “Children will continue to die in hot cars until technology is utilized to detect and alert others of their presence inside a vehicle. Education alone will not solve this problem because no one thinks a hot car tragedy can happen to them. That is precisely why technology is necessary. The fact that these systems exist to save the lives of children, but are not being included in all new vehicles is inconceivable,” stated Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Car Safety.
During the 2019-2020 legislative session, The Hot Cars Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of The Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2). Diverse stakeholders including families that have been impacted by a hot car incident, public health, safety and consumer organizations, law enforcement and first responders, animal protection groups and others have all voiced support for a technological solution to this problem.
In the majority of cases, it is loving parents and caregivers who unknowingly leave their child in the car. “My grandson, 3-month-old Norman “Bishop” Collins III, died as the result of a simple miscommunication and misunderstanding between two people going into church. Available technology would have saved his little life and so many others. Please help us to turn our pain into power, our tragedy into triumph, and our agony into positive action,” said his grandfather, Dr. Norman L. Collins.
Common stressors like a change in routine, lack of sleep or even simple distractions can all have an effect on even the most responsible parents. This modern-day phenomenon was explained from a brain science perspective. “Our brain’s dual memory systems enable us to multi-task, as our autopilot system takes us from one place to another without conscious thought, while our conscious memory system keeps track of the details of our lives.
However, our brain’s autopilot system can suppress our conscious memory of crucial details, such as the presence of a child in the back of a car. It is therefore the competition between brain memory systems, and not negligence or a lack of love, that results in children forgotten in cars,” said Dr. David Diamond, Professor of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida.
The technology called for in the bill is readily available and inexpensive ( examples here ). In fact, these systems could end up saving automakers money due to their ability to be used for various applications such as distracted driving detection, seat belt reminders, airbag sensors, anti-theft systems and more.
The safety standard called for in the Hot Cars Act is critical to ensuring the technology performs as expected and protects all children. Much like the safety standard that requires rear view cameras in cars today, the Hot Cars Act would make a significant impact on saving the lives of children, pets and others.
Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said, “Requiring technology to protect people in and around cars is not a new concept. Seat belts, airbags, roof crush standards are just a few examples – and in fact, they are the ones that recently, famously saved the life of Tiger Woods. Unfortunately, auto manufacturers opposing sensible regulations is also not new. It’s time for the auto industry to stop its stalling tactics and get behind this bill. As they push for an autonomous vehicle bill, certainly they could and should also support the Hot Cars Act.”
Far too many families are living without their children today because of these preventable tragedies. Dr. Andrew and Jamie Dill lost their 3-year-old son, Oliver, after a change in his routine caused him to believe he had dropped Ollie off at childcare. His words echoed the thoughts of many others when he said, “I cannot think of an endeavor more noble than saving the lives of children. This is an opportunity for our elected leaders to do just that. It has been said that the moral measure of a society is how well it treats its most vulnerable populations.” He continued, “We, the people, are trusting our elected officials to help our children, our future.”
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