Wicker: Technology could help end deaths of children in hot cars

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) this week advocated for the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in the Rear Seat Act of 2019, or HOT CARS Act, which he authored and sponsored to direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a final rule within two years requiring new passenger vehicles be equipped with alert systems to remind caregivers to check the rear seat.

If enacted, S. 1601 also would direct states to use a portion of their highway safety program funds to educate the public on the risks of leaving a child or unattended passenger in a vehicle, and require DOT to undertake a third-party study on retrofitting existing passenger motor vehicles.

The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on July 10 approved S. 1601 by voice vote. The same-named companion bill, H.R. 3593, is under subcommittee consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In Sen. Wicker’s weekly online report published on July 29, he pointed out that 52 children last year died in parked vehicles due to heatstroke, a tragedy that he said could happen to any family, particularly during heat waves.

“These deaths are terrible, but preventable,” the lawmaker wrote. “Education plays an important role in reduction, but technology is also part of the answer.”

Sen. Wicker pointed out that some auto manufacturers already have installed child-protection systems, including certain newer car models that monitor when the rear door is opened and closed before and after a vehicle is in motion and signifies if the door is not reopened after a trip.

“I have been encouraged by the voluntary actions businesses have taken to fix this problem, and Congress and the auto industry are working together to implement solutions,” wrote Sen. Wicker.