For Immediate Release: September 4, 2019
Contact: Pete Daniels (202) 408-1711, (301) 442-2249 (c) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement of Cathy Chase, President,
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,
on Automakers’ Announcement Regarding Unenforceable,
Voluntary Agreement on Rear Seat Occupant Alert Technology
Plan Falls Woefully Short, Leaves Children Vulnerable to Heatstroke
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.
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.