A New York state senator from the Hudson Valley has introduced a bill aimed at preventing the deaths of kids left in hot cars. It follows the deaths of 1-year-old twins from his district.
A Rockland County father left his twins in their rear car seats in late July while working an 8-hour shift in the Bronx. He told authorities he thought he’d dropped them off at day care. That parent lives in New City, where Democratic state Senator David Carlucci resides with his family, including two young boys.
“What’s disturbing to me is the fact that technology now exists that will remind you when you shut your car off that something is in the back seat,” Carlucci says. “That technology will save lives, but only if it’s implemented and standardized in all of our new vehicles. And so, I say, we can’t wait. The auto manufacturers have to be accountable. This technology will save lives, and that’s why I put forth legislation to require all new vehicles in New York state would have to have a back-seat detection system.”
For example, Nissan’s Rear Door Alert, originally developed by two engineers who are mothers, reminds owners to check the rear seat upon exiting their vehicle by using a series of honks as the driver walks away. Nissan, in July 2018, said it was the first automaker to use a honking horn as an alert for this type of feature. Other car manufacturers say they will incorporate some type of detection system. Subaru announced earlier this year that all of its 2020 model year Ascents will come with a rear-seat reminder system, using a chime and message display once the vehicle is turned off.
“We’ve been trying for many years to educate parents and, while education and awareness is at an all-time high, unfortunately, we saw last year the number of fatalities at an all-time high,” Auriemma says. “So, where the average was 38 children per year dying, last year, 53 children died in a hot car. And what this tells us is that education an awareness alone is not going to solve the problem.”
Sue Auriemma is vice president of KidsAndCars.org, and she’s based in New York state.
“So to require all autos sold in New York to have a detection system sort of parallels what we’re trying to do with the federal legislation where all cars manufactured would have an alert system to detect the presence of a child,” says Auriemma. “At the state level, I would imagine that cars would then have to be retrofitted in order to be sold in the state and have this because I don’t know that auto can create two different models for different states. But we are very encouraged to see that the senator is stepping up to help us to try to solve this problem and to prevent future tragedies, like the one that happened in the Bronx.”
If signed into law, Carlucci’s Heatstroke Elimination Awareness Technology (HEAT) Act would require automobile manufacturers be in compliance with the mandate by July 1, 2021. Carlucci says he looked into the proposed Hot Car Act in the House, but says New York cannot wait for the federal government.
“The problem that I have with that legislation, first; I don’t have confidence that it will get passed and signed into law, and then, second; even if it does, what it says is it’s putting together a study by the Department of Transportation for two years that will study the different types of technology and then possibly mandate the auto manufacturers to have this technology,” Carlucci says.
A spokesman for the Auto Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the leading advocacy group for the auto industry, says the group is reviewing these types of legislative proposals – including those mandating vehicle-based approaches. He says that, like many auto safety issues, meaningful progress in reducing these fatalities requires coordinated action and cooperation among a wide range of stakeholders. Carlucci introduced the bill last week and will be working on getting an Assembly sponsor.
“So the legislation that I put in is broad. It doesn’t single out any one technology,” says Carlucci. “It just states that you have to have some sort of back-seat detection system.”
The chair of AAA New York State’s Legislative Committee says the organization supports the goals of Carlucci’s legislation. Carlucci says used or older model cars would be grandfathered into the law.