Since 1990, 836 children have died from heatstroke after being accidentally left in cars. That’s the second-most common cause of nontraffic child fatalities from vehicles, behind only accidental backovers.
If the outside temperature is 90 degrees, a car’s temperature can spike to as high as 133 degreesafter only an hour.
What the bill does
The HOT CARS Act would require the Transportation Department to mandate all new motor vehicles have a “child safety alert system.” This would work similarly to existing seat belt alerts, with flashing symbols and warning sounds in the driver’s line of sight by the speedometer.
The full name is the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill is a necessary and inexpensive safety measure that would save lives, while cars currently provide drivers with warnings for things that aren’t life threatening.
“No child should endure the tragedy of dying while trapped in a hot vehicle. The unfortunate reality is that even good, loving and attentive parents can get distracted,” Rep. Ryan said in a press release. “Studies have shown that this can happen to anyone, anywhere.”
“Our cars can already 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,” Ryan continued.
“Cars are mandated to have seat belts, interior trunk-releases, and rear backup cameras. Our legislation would move us one step closer to getting this inexpensive technology in every car on the road to help save the lives of children nationwide.”
What opponents say
Opponents say the bill would increase costs while not doing much to solve the problem, especially in the near term because of car buying habits.
“The proposed mandate for notification technology in cars misses the targeted population, because so few parents of young children buy new cars,” the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement. “Each year, less than 13% of new car buyers have a child six years old or younger,”
“And with people keeping cars longer, its takes about two decades for a technology to reach all the passenger vehicles on our roads,” the Alliance added. “Greater public awareness saves lives today.”
Odds of passage
What are the odds of passage as standalone legislation?
The House version has attracted 19 bipartisan cosponsors: 16 Democrats and three Republicans. It awaits a possible vote in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
A previous House version introduced by Ryan in 2016 attracted four bipartisan cosponsors but never received a vote.
The Senate version has attracted two bipartisan cosponsors, a Democrat and a Republican. It awaits a possible vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.