National Consumers League

NCL statement in support of HOT CARS Act of 2017 to prevent child heatstroke deaths by getting much-needed technology into vehicles


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June 7, 2017

Contact: National Consumers League, Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Tim Ryan (D-13th OH), Peter King (R-2nd NY) and Jan Schakowsky (D-9th IL) introduced the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (HOT CARS Act of 2017, H.R. 2801), a bill to  prevent children from dying in hot cars when unknowingly left alone in vehicles. The bi-partisan bill has support from more than twenty of the nation’s leading public health, consumer and safety organizations, experts in neuroscience and the brain memory system, along with families who have tragically lost their child or were seriously injured due to child heatstroke.  The unfortunate reality is that hundreds of wonderful, loving and attentive parents can get distracted and forget to drop their child off. Studies have shown that this can happen to anyone, anywhere. The bill’s introduction coincides with the kickoff of the National Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention Campaign by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  

“We need Congress to require technology that warns drivers that a child may remain in the vehicle, because despite the fact that since 1990 800 children have died in hot cars, automakers haven’t worked to prevent these deaths.  The industry is well aware of the hazard; so it falls to Congress to require technology built into vehicles to send warnings.  Our cars today alert drivers when they leave their keys in the car, their lights on, or their trunk open – none of which are life threatening. It is not unusual for the government to mandate safety features to protect lives. Cars are mandated to have seat belts, interior trunk-releases, and rear backup cameras,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. “Already this year nine children have died in hot cars, and the scorching summer days of high temperatures are still ahead of us.  This is not just a ‘seasonal’ problem.  These deaths are happening year round.

Greenberg worked for passage of another law enacted by Congress in 2008 that requires rear view cameras as standard equipment in all cars by May of 2018.  “This is a very reasonable and effective way to stop preventable, unnecessary injuries and deaths.”

The HOT CARS Act would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a final rule requiring cars to be equipped with a system to alert the drive if a passenger remains in the back seat when a car is turned off.

 “These are tragedies attributable to common stressors like a change in routine or lack of sleep or even simple distractions can all have an effect on even the most responsible parents,” said Greenberg. She noted that Dr. David Diamond, a professor in the Departments of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida, spoke about how the brain works and how leaving a child in a car can happen to the best of parents or caregivers.  “The one aspect which is not a factor is that these children were not forgotten by parents who were reckless with regard to care for their children. This modern day phenomenon must be explained from a brain science perspective, not one that blames parents for being negligent.” He continued, “We must have a system that provides a reminder to parents of the presence of a child in the backseat for that rare occasion when a child’s life is in danger because parents, through no fault of their own, lose awareness of the presence of their child in the car.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.