Remarks by Cathy Chase, President, on Hot Car Tragedies

  • May 1, 2023
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Remarks by Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Press Conference: Grieving Families, Members of Congress, Kids and Car Safety and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Call for Immediate Action to End Hot Car Tragedies

May 1, 2023

Good morning.  I’m Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates).  Advocates is an alliance of consumer, safety, law enforcement, medical and public health groups, and insurance companies and agents working together to prevent crashes, deaths and injuries on our roads.

I’d first like to thank Janette Fennell and Kids and Car Safety for their leadership in championing this issue to prevent hot car deaths and injuries.  Advocates is proud to partner with them and other stakeholders to advance solutions to this tragic problem.  I would also like to thank the Beck and Cestia families for participating today, and all of the many families who have shared their heart-wrenching losses to call attention to the urgent need for action and keep others from experiencing unthinkable devastation.

I want to commend Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) who have been longtime champions to advance a requirement for safety technology that detects and alerts drivers to the presence of unattended children as standard equipment on all new passenger vehicles.  They, along with some other key Members of Congress, successfully got this directive included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ((IIJA), Pub. L. 117-58), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

It is now incumbent upon the U.S. DOT to issue a comprehensive rule with great urgency.  Without a requirement that new cars be equipped with a system to detect occupants in the whole passenger compartment, children will continue to be in danger and families will be left with a false sense of security.

With motor vehicle crash fatalities skyrocketing and children in preventable peril of hot car tragedies every day, it is unconscionable that auto manufacturers, with limited exceptions, are not putting technological solutions into cars as standard equipment.  In sharp contrast, the industry has spent billions of dollars in the race to develop and produce autonomous vehicles (AVs), a technology with unproven safety benefits.  This National Heatstroke Prevention Day, we urge Secretary Buttigieg to issue final rules requiring hot car detection and prevention systems as well as other proven safety systems, like comprehensive automatic emergency braking (AEB), in all new vehicles to reduce the outrageously high death and injury toll.

With more than 1,050 children having died in hot car incidents since 1990, including two already in the first four months of this year, we cannot afford to defer, delay or dilute this lifesaving measure. Thank you.