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Blumenthal-Wicker HOT CARS Amendment Included in Senate Autonomous Vehicle Legislation

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Al Franken (D-MN) to prevent the deaths of children in hot cars was included in a bipartisan bill approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The HOT CARS Act was included as an amendment in comprehensive legislation on autonomous vehicles, the AV START Act.

The amendment requires 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.

“It can take mere minutes on a hot day for a car to turn into a deathtrap for a small child. Since I first introduced the HOT CARS Act in July, there have been nine deaths – nine deaths that might have been prevented with a simple sensor. I was proud to work with my colleagues and countless tireless advocates to craft this legislation, which will ensure every new car sold in the United States is equipped with the basic technology to save a life,” Blumenthal said.

“The future of autonomous vehicles is quickly becoming a reality,” Wicker said. “As Congress works to develop federal policies for the safe use of these vehicles on our roads, ensuring that our children are protected from heatstroke should be a part of that discussion. I am pleased that the committee recognizes the importance of installing sensors in cars to let drivers know when a child has been left in the backseat. This is a sensible solution that will help save lives.”

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.

Specifically, the amendment directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 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 requires NHTSA to contract with an independent third-party to study options for retrofitting existing vehicles to address the problem of children being unintentionally left behind in vehicles. This study would provide recommendations to manufacturers to make sure products perform as intended; and to consumers on how to select the right technology.