Statement Following House Hearing “Legislation to Make Cars in America Safer”

    • July 24, 2019
    150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    July 24, 2019
    Contact: Pete Daniels, 202-408-1711, 301-442-2249 (c) or pdaniels@saferoads.org

     

    House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Holds Important Hearing on Hot Cars Act of 2019 (H.R. 3593), PARK IT Act (H.R. 3145) and Impaired Driving

     

    Members of Congress express support for mandating technology

    in cars that could be saving lives today

     

    Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), testified today before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce during the hearing “Legislation to Make Cars in America Safer.”  Her testimony, found here, focused on the need to urgently pass the Hot Cars Act of 2019 (H.R. 3593) and the PARK It Act (H.R. 3145), as well as swiftly implement countermeasures to reduce impaired driving and improve motor vehicle safety.  “Steps can, and must, be taken to protect children from tragic heatstroke incidents in cars, to curb the dangers associated with keyless ignition systems, and to reduce impaired driving,” Chase said during her statement.  “We are here today because people are not infallible.  We are, however, inventive.  And there are current, proven solutions to these issues.”

    “Tragically the problem of hot cars has taken the lives of at least 21 children this year,” said Chase.  She continued, “Technology is available now that can detect the presence of a child in a vehicle and alert drivers and caregivers.”  Advocates, KidsAndCars.org and other consumer, health and safety organizations have led efforts to pass a new rule requiring a detection and alert system that can prevent heatstroke deaths of children unknowingly left in vehicles or who independently access parked cars.

    Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a cosponsor of the Hot Cars Act together with Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Peter King (R-NY), stated, “It’s not enough to educate parents about the risks.  Even the best parents can get distracted.  We need safety features built into our vehicles.  You get a warning when you leave your car keys in the ignition.  You should get the warning when a child is left in the back seat.”

    Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) also voiced support for the Hot Cars Act during his opening statement at the hearing. “I commend the Chairwoman and Representatives Ryan and King for their work on the Hot Cars Act,” Pallone said.  “This legislation would require vehicles to be equipped with safety technologies to detect and alert the driver to the presence of a child or occupant in the rear seat of a vehicle after the engine is shut off.  And I look forward to exploring how this technological revolution can save lives.”

    Testifying in support of the PARK IT Act was Susan Livingston, whose parents Dr. James D. Livingston and Dr. Sherry H. Penney, died earlier this year of carbon monoxide poisoning after unknowingly leaving their car, equipped with a keyless ignition, running in their garage.  “These deaths were caused by an automobile design flaw that can be fixed at low cost, with readily available technology,” Ms. Livingston said.  “It is a design flaw that the car industry and the NHTSA has known about since keyless ignitions were introduced in 2006.”  Several Subcommittee members noted that they had forgotten to turn off their own keyless ignition vehicles at times.  Chase called for swift action on the bill saying, “We applaud the leadership of the Chairwoman and other cosponsors in introducing the PARK IT Act and urge Congress to enact it.”

    Another topic of focus at the hearing was impaired driving.  Subcommittee Member Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) spoke in favor of technology to prevent drunk driving, including the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS).  “This technology needs to be the standard in all new vehicles,” Dingell said.  “And it will save 7,000 to 10,000 lives every year.”  Advocates commends Rep. Dingell for her leadership on drunk driving and looks forward to continuing to work with her and others to mandate technological solutions that can curb this deadly behavior on our roadways.

    Advanced safety features that have shown to be very effective at helping drivers avoid crashes are available today.  As Chase stated during the hearing, “proven technologies, in addition to the ones being discussed today, such automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot detection and lane departure warning should be in all new cars now.”  Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), who said she was concerned that these types of safety features were being sold as luxury items in cars, stated,  “Automatic emergency brakes are not the same as leather seats.  Lane departure warnings are not same as a Bluetooth-enabled stereo.”

    Advocates has outlined a number of commonsense solutions, which are available today, that can prevent motor vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries.  We thank Chairwoman Schakowsky (D-IL), Ranking Member McMorris Rogers (R-WA), and the Subcommittee Members for holding today’s hearing and look forward to working with them in the coming months to advance important auto safety measures to save lives.

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