Should an alert system be required to prevent kids from hot car deaths?

ST. GEORGE — A law has been proposed that would require car manufacturers to include sensors in rear seats to prevent children from unknowingly being left in hot cars. The announcement coincided with the designation of July 31 as National Heatstroke Prevention Day.

On Monday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Al Franken, D-Minn., held a press conference to announce the introduction of the Hot Cars Act – Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in the Rear Seat.

If passed, the Senate bill would require new vehicles to be equipped with a visual and auditory alert system to remind parents to check the rear seat. It also requires a study on retrofitting cars with reminder systems.

Graphic shows child vehicular heat stroke fatalities by state | Image courtesy of kidsandcars.org, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The technology would be similar to alerts that remind drivers to check their tire pressure, put on their seat belts or close an open door.

Over the weekend, two more children tragically died due to heatstroke because they were unknowingly left in a car, Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said at the press conference.

A 7-month-old boy died in Arizona Friday after being left in a vehicle parked in his home’s driveway after the child’s usual daycare drop-off routine didn’t occur. The next day, a 1-year-old boy was discovered deceased after his father made two round-trip drives between the family’s home and a church.

“A total of 30 children have already died this year and we expect the number of deaths to rise as temperatures climb over the next few months,” Gillian said. “These deaths are agonizing, they are completely avoidable and there is technology that should be in every car to save lives.”

Dr. David Diamond, a professor in the Departments of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida and an expert on neuroscience, said that a technological solution is essential because, in the majority of cases, children are left unknowingly by caring and devoted parents or caregivers.

“It is important to stress that these parents do not have a reckless disregard for the care of their children,” Diamond said in a statement. “Rather, common factors like a change in routine, lack of sleep or even simple distractions can all have an effect on even the most responsible parents. From a brain science perspective, parents can, through no fault of their own, lose awareness of the presence of a child in the car.”

Read more: 2-year-old dies in Washington County after being left in van

Therefore, Diamond added, it is imperative that there be a system to provide an alert to remind parents of the presence of a child in the backseat.

This is a modern phenomenon which requires a modern solution,” Diamond said.

Lindsey Rogers-Steiz, the mother of a 15-month-old boy named Benjamin, who died in 2014 of vehicular heatstroke, has championed federal action and has met with lawmakers and government officials to advocate for a child reminder system in every new car.

“If there had been notification systems in vehicles, then hundreds of mothers just like me would still have the blessing of holding their children in their arms today,” Rogers-Seitz said at the conference. “Technology can account for researched and proven faults in human memory, and it can save children’s lives.”

Education and awareness aren’t enough to stop child deaths caused by heatstroke, said Amber Andreasen, director of the advocacy group Kids and Cars.

If parents aren’t believing that this can happen to them, then they’re not taking the needed safety precautions to keep their children safe,” Andreasen said in a statement. “A standard technology that would be in all vehicles to protect all children is what we really need.”

Since 1990, more than 800 children have been killed in hot cars, Janette Fennell, Founder and President of Kids and Cars, said.

“Every summer, children are dying and families are suffering,” Fennell said. “We cannot stand by and allow these deaths to occur when technology is available and affordable to save a life.”

Since 1996, at least 12 child deaths due to vehicular heatstroke have occurred in Utah, Kids and Cars representatives said.

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10 Comments

  • Real Life August 2, 2017 at 9:52 am

    How about a system that alerts you when you have too many kids to tend to, and you get distracted and leave one in the car.

    • comments August 2, 2017 at 11:01 am

      how about a trip to the spay and neuter clinic?

      • Utahguns August 2, 2017 at 6:25 pm

        That comment is priceless!!!

  • youcandoit August 2, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Yes they need to have that alert system. It’s horrible when people are so self absorbed they forget about their precious babies. Subconsciously they obviously didn’t want their children, that’s what I get. Because my kids mean everything to me how in the world do you forget a child? And why is a police officer being charged for his K-9 partner and none of the people are being charged it’s nonsense.

  • dogmatic August 2, 2017 at 10:34 am

    How about a alert system for the irresponsible that is stamped on their foreheads warning others not to have children with, not to sell guns to, etc
    I’m tired of responsible folks paying for a very few others mistakes.

  • Uncle Lenny August 2, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Must we continue to “dummy down” to the lowest common denominator? Adults must take responsibility for their actions. Politicians should stay out of the way of our everyday lives.
    Technology is not the answer here. Common sense is.

    • DRT August 2, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      Common sense is no where to be found. Particularly when you have the egg heads such as Dr. David Diamond, a professor in the Departments of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida, making statements to excuse the inexcusable. What he has said here, is nothing but a load of over educated, under native intelligent and thoroughly namby pamby horse crap. He said, in the above article;
      “From a brain science perspective, parents can, through no fault of their own, lose awareness of the presence of a child in the car.”
      It is no wonder that we as a nation are about to get our butts handed to us by third world countries. We have lost the ability to think. We have lost the basic concept of being responsible for our own actions. We have lost all moral direction.
      Does this sound like anything out of world history? Oh wait, most people would have no idea since world history is no longer “relevant.”

  • hiker75 August 2, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Absolutely, we need technology. And it should be installed in every car, bus and truck! Even emergency vehicles. How many humans and animals, including, K9’s, have died in a closed car? We also need to prosecute those responsible for the deaths.

    • DRT August 2, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Absolutely agree with your statements here! But until the folks who are responsible for filing charges, and prosecuting on those charges start doing the jobs they have taken an oath to do, people aren’t going to accept responsibility for their actions.

  • oyme August 3, 2017 at 7:08 am

    I strongly agree with all the other comments here. It should be natural and instinctual that as soon as you park your vehicle to check your back seat(s) for your kids before you exit. Also, I have one child and I have never forgotten him so I do think people should stop having kids once they start feeling overwhelmed and spread too thin. It’s sad these kids have to pay for their parents’ lack of attention.

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