New Rule Aims to Keep Kids Safe in Cars
New automotive legislation could help avert future tragedies like one that shattered an Ohio family in August 2017.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) sponsored H.R. 3388, the SELF-DRIVE Act, and introduced it in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 25, 2017. The bill primarily regulates self-driving cars’ design, construction and performance. However, the law also includes a provision mandating the inclusion of rear occupant alert systems in new vehicles.
The bill passed the House with bipartisan support on September 6, 2017.
Rear occupant alert systems remind drivers to check their back seats for children every time they turn off their engine.
KidsAndCars.org, a group that monitors safety issues surrounding cars and children, said 39 American children died of heatstroke and one died from hypothermia after being left in a car last year.
The Dayton Daily News reported 15-month-old Sofia Averio died on Aug. 23, 2017 after her mother Karen Osorio-Martinez accidentally left her in her car all day. Court records show Averio sat in a rear-facing car seat located in the back seat behind the driver’s seat.
Osorio-Martinez reportedly told investigators she ran late for work that day and usually drops her daughter off at day care. Averio’s death remains under investigation.
As the bill is currently written, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation would have to issue a final rule mandating rear occupant alert systems in new vehicles within two years of the bill becoming law.
“The auto industry knows we are human and can unfortunately forget one step in this busy and fast-paced society,” said KidsAndCars.org President Janette Fennell in a statement on their website. “They have kindly added reminders so we put on our seatbelts, to fill our low gas tank, leave our key in the ignition and turn off our headlights.”
The language mentioning rear occupant alert systems was partially developed by KidsAndCars.org as part of a proposed “Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS)” Act.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) praised the measure’s passing in a statement released Sept. 6, 2017.
“No child should endure the tragedy of dying while trapped in a hot vehicle,” Ryan said. “The unfortunate reality is that even good, loving and attentive parents can get distracted. Studies have shown that this can happen to anyone, anywhere. I am proud that we were able to get this important language through the Energy and Commerce Committee and pass the full House.”
Some vehicle manufacturers already include rear seat reminders as standard features, including General Motors and Nissan. GM’s system activates when either rear door is opened and closed up to 10 minutes before the vehicle is started or while the vehicle is running, according to GM. The system then rings five chimes and displays a message in the driver’s electronic dashboard when the vehicle is turned off.