Ombudsman Alert – AUTOMAKERS “VOLUNTARY” PLAN TO PREVENT HOT CAR DEATHS OF CHILDREN MAY BE “FULL OF HOT AIR”

BY DR. LOUIS ALPERT

Ombudsman

Ombudsman Alert published articles on August 9, 2018 and July 4, 2019 encouraging legislative action to prevent “hot car deaths” leading up to the introduction of legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congressmen Tim Ryan and Peter King, called the Hot Cars Act (H.R. 3593).

This Act would mandate that all new vehicles be equipped with a sensor and alert system to force drivers to check their back seat to ensure that children are never left alone in a hot car. Unfortunately, however, a voluntary solution proposed by the auto industry has been found lacking by both the advocacy group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Ombudsman Alert.

The car safety advocacy group released an official statement, which read, in part, “Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) is disappointed with the lackluster agreement announced by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, which fails to include critically-needed systems that can detect and alert to the presence of children unknowingly left in or who have gained access to hot cars.

“Already this year at least 39 children have died due to vehicular heatstroke.  Legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives (Hot Cars Act, H.R. 3593), which has garnered widespread support including from KidsAndCars.org, parents who have lost children in heatstroke incidents, and groups representing public health, safety, consumers, law enforcement and first responders and others, would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a final rule requiring all new cars have the detection and alert technology by 2023 if enacted this year – before the date of the non-binding agreement.

“Not only is this weak agreement voluntary, allowing manufacturers to choose to completely disregard it, glaringly missing is a requirement for the system to detect the actual presence of a child.  Without this key component, a major proportion of hot car deaths will remain unaddressed as nearly 30 percent of these fatalities happen as the result of a child independently gaining access to a vehicle.  Rear occupant alert systems triggered by door sequencing and other non-detection techniques will fail families and children will die as a result of being left unknowingly in hot cars.

By contrast, H.R. 3593 would require the U,S, Department of Transportation(DOT) to issue a final rule requiring all new cars to have detection and alert technology by 2023.

The statement continues, “The announcement today by automakers sets the industry on a dangerous path toward implementing technology that leaves parents and caregivers with a false sense of security.  Without a minimum performance standard to verify the systems’ effectiveness and an enforceable requirement that it will be installed in all new cars, lives will still be lost.  Technology that can detect a child or other occupant is available, proven, inexpensive and on the market today.  We call upon Congress to act now and pass the Hot Cars Act, which directs the U.S. DOT to take action to save lives.  With each passing day, the threat of another avoidable death of a child is very real, especially during this continued period of warm temperatures.  Failure to act will result in hundreds of needless deaths and countless preventable injuries.  Advocates and our safety partners welcome automakers and their industry representatives to join us in supporting this bill to make real progress in eliminating these tragedies.”

Ombudsman Alert encourages our local Congresswoman, Nita Lowey, to fight hard to pass H.R.3593 and inform our readers in the next edition of this column on Thursday, September 19. on any progress made towards the passage of this vital bill.

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