LegalReader.com  ·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Bipartisan HOT CARS Act May Save Children’s Lives


— June 7, 2017

This afternoon, a new bill is being announced in Washington, D.C. The Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act of 2017 is an effort to prevent needless deaths caused by leaving children unattended in hot cars. The bill would make reminder systems mandatory as standard equipment.


is afternoon, a new bill is being announced in Washington, D.C. The Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act of 2017 is an effort to prevent needless deaths caused by leaving children unattended in hot cars. The bill would make reminder systems mandatory as standard equipment.

Now that warmer weather is here (and only getting warmer!), we’re seeing the return of an old and utterly avoidable problem: children being left unattended in hot cars. Many of us hear these tragic stories and shake our heads, wondering how anyone could forget their children or simply leave them in such a dangerous situation. However, as one of the speakers at today’s event will discuss, even the most loving of parents can make this fatal mistake due to routine changes, stress, fatigue and distractions.

There’s also the “I’m only going in [to the store, etc.] for a minute, everything will be fine” mindset. As Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.” The modern translation is “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” We may think it’s only going to be a minute, but what happens if there’s a line at the checkout or an old friend is there, too? It’s easy for a “minute” to become much longer.

Average rise in interior temperature of enclosed vehicle, over time; image courtesy of www.heatkills.org.
Average rise in interior temperature of enclosed vehicle, over time; image courtesy of www.heatkills.org.

Sadly, according to San Francisco State University adjunct professor, Jan Null on HeatKills.org, “Children have died in cars with the temperature as low as 63 degrees. Basically the car becomes a greenhouse. At 70 degrees on a sunny day, after a half hour, the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees.” The source data can be found here.

And, that’s in moderate temperatures. According to the CDC, “When temperatures outside range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130 to 172.”

That’s truly terrifying, and it only gets worse. By the way, “cracking the windows” or parking in shade does nothing to prevent needless tragedy.

USA Today reported that, “The body temperatures of children can increase three to five times faster than adults. Heat stroke begins when the body passes 104 degrees. Reaching an internal temperature of 107 degrees can be deadly.”

The media advisory announcing the HOT CARS Act states that “more than 800 children have died from heatstroke in hot cars since 1990, including 9 children so far this year. With temperatures rising as summer quickly approaches, the risk grows even greater.”

As you can see, the HOT CARS Act is a timely and important piece of legislation. This week is also Vehicle Heatstroke Prevention Week (June 5-11).

In attendance at today’s press conference:

  • “U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio-13)
  • U.S. Representative Peter King (R-New York-2)
  • U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois-9)
  • Deona Ryan Bien (Charleston, SC): mother of Aslyn, who died Feb. 7, 2004 at age 1 after being unknowingly left in a hot car.
  • Norman Collins (Raleigh, NC): grandfather of Norman Lee Van Collins III, who died May 29, 2011 at age 3 months after being unknowingly left in a hot car in Mississippi.
  • Miles and Carol Harrison (Purcellville, VA): parents of Chase, who died July 8, 2008 at age 21 months after being unknowingly left in a hot car.
  • Janette Fennell, President and Founder, KidsAndCars.org
  • Jackie Gillan, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
  • David Diamond, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology; Director, Neuroscience Collaborative Program and Center for Preclinical and Clinical Research on PTSC, University of South Florida, will discuss factors that can contribute to loving and responsible parents unknowingly leaving a child behind in a car, including change in routine, simple distractions, stress or fatigue.”

Vehicles can already tell us if we’ve left our lights on, have low tire pressure, left our keys in the ignition, or haven’t buckled our seatbelts. The technology to warn us, after the vehicle is shut off, that there’s a passenger in the back seat already exists, too. HOT CARS will ensure that it’s made standard.

A live webcast of the press conference is available at www.saferoads.org. A YouTube video of the live conference should be available for those who miss it.

Also available at the press conference is a map of the U.S. showing the latest state-by-state statistics on vehicle-related child fatalities. A memorial photo wall is also on display, featuring pictures of children whose lives were lost in hot cars from 1990 – 2016.

Here’s hoping that HOT CARS becomes law so we can reduce, and even eliminate, such tragedies in the future.

Sources:

Heatkills.org
Child deaths in hot cars: 10 key facts
Wed. June 7: News Announcement & Webcast – Parents, Members of Congress, Safety Advocates to urge passage of bill to prevent child heatstroke deaths (email, no

Join the conversation!