MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Members of Congress joined forces with safety advocates on Wednesday to form the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act of 2017.
The law, supported by both democrats and republicans, calls for the Secretary of Transportation to issue a rule that would require automobile manufacturers to equip all new passenger vehicles with a child safety alert system. The purpose of the system would be to alert drivers that there are still passengers inside the car once it's locked.
Montgomery Fire/Rescue Lieutenant Jason Cupps said from 1990 to 2017, there were 17 total deaths due to infants having a heatstroke after being locked in a hot car. He said MFR has already received seven calls about this concern this calendar year. The department said a law like this one would be a positive thing.
"It's usually just forgetfulness," Cupps said. "Sometimes the child will be locked in there, but not all the way. The parent will think they'll be fine for just a minute, but the child will find a way to lock themselves in. Other times, they'll just forget. That's why this law is such a good idea."
Lt. Cupps said MFR receives more calls about children accidentally getting locked in the back of cars or unintentionally being left too long during the summer months. This concern was voiced by the supporters of the bill, as they explained that a higher heat index poses a higher risk.
Gene Townsend said, even though his own children and grandchildren are adults, he is completely in support of this law.
"I support it completely," Townsend said. "I also think parents shouldn't leave their child or animal in the car, even if they think it's going to be for just a minute, especially with our summer heat index."
There are already devices, apps and technology to help prevent the issue. General Motors has what it calls a "rear seat reminder" feature in many of its 2017 models.
Since 1990, there have been more than 800 hot car related deaths involving young children in the United States. Nine children have died from this situation so far this year.