(Reuters) – Automakers would be required to install technology on new vehicles that alerts leaving the parents to check for children in the back seat under the legislation in Congress in response to the death of the children left behind in hot cars.
Lawmakers say more than 800 children forgotten in vehicles have died of heatstroke in the United States in the past two decades.
The bill would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to write new rules within two years of the introduction of “a clear auditory and visual warning” to remind drivers to check the backseat. It would also be a study into the feasibility of retrofitting existing vehicles with the system.
The Alliance of automobile manufacturers, representing General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp, Volkswagen AG and other major automakers, said it will “carefully legislative proposals to keep in mind that less than 13% of new car buyers with a child of six years old or younger.”
The group noted, “It takes about two decades for a technology to all passenger cars on our roads. A greater awareness saves live.”
The proposal is sponsored by a number of lawmakers including Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, a Republican, the committee’s top Democrat Maria Cantwell and Representative Jan Schakowsky, who is the chairman of a subcommittee on oversight of car safety that a hearing on the matter on Thursday.
Schakowsky said 48 children died of the heat in the car from last year. “In the vast majority of the cases, the adult did not know that the child was in the car. It is not enough to inform parents about the risks,” she said.
She noted that a lot of the newer vehicles, alert drivers if they leave their keys behind. “You will get a warning if you have a child in the car,” she added.
GM in 2016 entered the safety of the system to remind drivers to check for children in the back seat. Activated by the rear door of the car opened at the beginning of the journey, the system, in use on some vehicles today, alerts drivers with a unique hooting sound check of the back seat at the place of destination.
The system detects the presence of a child in a car seat.
The Senate version was introduced Wednesday, while the House version will be introduced in the coming weeks.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman