New safety recommendations to prevent hot car deaths coming this year

Experts push for stronger hot car tech to protect kids
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 10:50 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Six children across the country have died inside hot cars so far this year, with three happening just last week. Alabama saw a hot car death back in February, and experts said with the temperatures in the state, it’s important parents stay on high alert.

Because of 2021 legislation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been studying hot cars and children over the last two years, and has to set out new safety standards and rules for car manufacturers to follow.

“This is the time of year when hot car tragedies really tend to increase,” Amber Rollins, Director for Kids and Car Safety said. “A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult. Two-thirds of an increase in temperature happens in about the first 10 minutes.”

With the warm weather increasing and school out for summer, experts said this is when they see the most hot car deaths.

“It’s not about forgetting your child,” Rollins said. “It’s really about how our memory systems function and when we are extremely sleep deprived, fatigued, and we have a change in routine. We are functioning in autopilot, which most of us do every day. It can happen to anyone.”

Three of the six children that have died inside hot cars so far this year happened in just one week. Two of the children were accidentally forgotten and one child got in the car on their own.

“25% of hot car deaths happen when a child gets into a vehicle on their own and is unable to get out,” Rollins said. “Of that 25%, 68% are little boys. This is not surprising because little boys are geared towards liking vehicles.”

Experts said always keep your car locked and be aware of your child lock settings.

“If your child does go missing, just like you have to check the pool or any body of water, you have to check the inside trunk and floor board of all vehicles in the area,” Rollins said.

They said it’s good to leave your purse or phone in the back as a reminder, but newly manufactured cars will soon have new reminder technology and safety guidelines. But it’s still unknown exactly what will be recommended.

“What we really need when it comes to this technology is occupant detection,” Rollins said. “That type of system can work with the current systems in the vehicle and it can alert your cell phone, sound the horn, roll the windows down, turn on the AC. It can call your emergency contacts and authorities and say ‘hey, there is a child alone in this vehicle, they need your help’. A reminder alert is not enough.”

The 2021 legislation said that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has until November 2023 to release the new guidelines, then there will be public comment and review.

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