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On National Heatstroke Prevention Day, Blumenthal & Franken Announce Bill to Prevent Child Hot Car Deaths

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, on National Heatstroke Prevention Day, 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 Seat Act (HOT CARS Act) to help prevent heatstroke deaths of children trapped in hot cars. Over the weekend, in the span of just 24-hours, two children died of heatstroke while left in cars in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Blumenthal-Franken 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.

“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.

“Each summer, we hear heart-wrenching stories about children whose lives end far too early because they were accidentally trapped in the back seat of a hot car. We can do something to prevent these terrible tragedies, and that’s why I’ve helped introduce commonsense legislation that would make sure there are measures in place to alert you if your child is left in the back seat. I want to see this life-saving technology become the standard in our cars,” Franken said.

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 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 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.

Jackie Gillan, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said, “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.”

“Since 1990, more than 800 children have been tragically killed in hot cars. At 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,” said. Janette Fennell, Founder and President, “Families are grateful for the leadership of Senators Blumenthal and Franken and their concern for our children.”

"Parents need a simple, reliable, and effective way to avoid the unthinkable act of forgetting their child in the backseat when they get out of the car. Congress should pass the HOT CARS Act without delay to help parents avoid the devastation of losing a child to heatstroke. Until these alerts are in every car, every parent should remember: look before you lock,” said David Friedman, Director of Cars and Product Policy and Analysis, Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports.

“We lose an average of 37 children each year because too many adults do not look before they lock,” said Amy Artuso, senior program manager for child passenger safety at the National Safety Council. “While we need to help parents understand what they can do, legislation is an important layer of protection to help prevent these deaths. We applaud Senators Blumenthal and Franken for introducing this bill and going the extra step to protect our most precious cargo.”

"We commend Senators Blumenthal and Franken for their leadership on this very important safety issue," said Dan Turton, GMNA Vice President, Public Policy. "GM is committed to protecting the safety of children in and around our vehicles and has already deployed an industry-first Rear Seat Reminder on many of our 2017 and 2018 models. The Rear Seat Reminder is a simple feature that is intended to do exactly what it says: remind the driver to look in the rear seat before exiting the vehicle."

A similar measure was recently introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH), Peter King (R-NY) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).