In attempts to prevent children or other unattended passengers from being left in hot cars, some newly proposed U.S. legislation could require automakers to add warning systems to new vehicles telling occupants to check the back seat.
U.S. representatives from Ohio, New York and Illinois introduced the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act of 2016—the HOT Cars Act, for short—on Thursday, according to CBS DFW. If passed, it would “require the Secretary of Transportation to issue a rule requiring all new passenger motor vehicles to be equipped with a child safety alert system” within two years of its enactment. Its focus is on preventing children from being left in vehicles, but as we’ve seen, people leave everything from children to puppies and even dolls unattended.
According to KidsAndCars.org, founded by Janette Fennell, an average of 37 children die each year due to heat stroke from being left in a vehicle. Whether that is a worldwide total or a U.S. total, the website does not specify. After he sponsored the legislation, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan called the absence of a required safety feature to warn about leaving children behind “inexcusable.”
According to CNN, a young boy died in Texas during the week when his mother, an attorney, thought she’d dropped him off at daycare before work. She hadn’t, and he was in the rear-facing seat when she pulled into the daycare center to pick him up. From CNN:
Parents need reminders that a child is in the backseat, because stress and sleep deprivation can cause the brain of a parent to revert to habits and forget plans they may have made to drop children off at day care, says Dr. David Diamond, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of South Florida who has studied fatal memory errors involving children in cars for the past 12 years.
“What’s very clear to me is that these children were not forgotten by parents that were reckless with regard to care for their children,” he said.
General Motors already plans to install a written reminder and warning tone to check the backseat in its 2017 Acadia models, according to CNN. The company will introduce the feature on other four-door models later. With the HOT Cars Act, other manufacturers may be joining them soon.