(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced today he will introduce the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seat Act (HOT CARS Act) to help prevent heatstroke deaths of children trapped in hot cars.
Blumenthal’s bill would require cars to come equipped with technology to alert drivers if a child is left in the back seat once the car is turned off. Such technology exists and is available in some vehicles, including many of GM’s 2017 and 2018 models. Aftermarket products also exist, but the lifesaving technology is not yet widely implemented.
On average, 37 children die each year trapped in overheated cars in the United States, and more than 700 have died nationwide since 1998. Since babies and young children are unable to regulate their body temperatures very well, their core body temperature can rise up to five times faster than adults and reach dangerous levels in just minutes when left in a vehicle on a hot day. Children have also died from heatstroke in cars with temperatures as low as 60 degrees.
“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. 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,” Blumenthal said.
Specifically, the bill directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require cars come equipped with technology to alert the driver to check the back seat when the car is turned off. The bill also asks NHTSA to study and report on options and best practices for retrofitting existing vehicles with aftermarket technology.
A similar measure was recently introduced in the House by Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH), Peter King (R-NY) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). The Senate measure will also be cosponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN).