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Urgent Action Needed to Prevent Hot Car Deaths: An Open Letter to the Secretary of Transportation

With summer already here and the threat of hot car incidents looming, The Institute of Childhood Preparedness and other concerned organizations are joining forces to urge the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to take immediate action. The group sent a letter addressed to Secretary Buttigieg, emphasizing the need for comprehensive measures to prevent the tragic deaths and injuries of children and companion animals left unattended in vehicles.

Since 1990, over 1,050 children have tragically lost their lives due to hot car incidents, with eight fatalities already reported this year. Additionally, hundreds of companion animals suffer the same fate annually. These alarming statistics, compiled by Kids and Car Safety, illustrate the urgent need for action to address this preventable issue.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made significant strides in this area by adopting new rules for the 60 GHz spectrum band. These rules facilitate the use of short-range radar systems that can detect and prevent the deaths or injuries of children and companion animals inadvertently left inside vehicles. The letter emphasizes the need for the U.S. DOT to build upon this progress and implement further measures to protect vulnerable occupants such as children.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, Pub. L. 117-58), recently passed by Congress, mandates that new passenger motor vehicles be equipped with a system to alert the operator to check rear-designated seating positions after the vehicle's engine is turned off. The final rule for this mandate is expected to be issued by November of this year. The letter stresses that the U.S. DOT now has a crucial responsibility to develop a comprehensive standard that goes beyond a mere alert to check the rear seat and encompasses the detection of occupants throughout the entire passenger compartment.

Contrary to the life-saving potential of such detection and alert systems, many auto manufacturers have yet to include them as standard equipment. The letter raises that these systems are already available in the U.S. marketplace and are cost-effective. With the economy of scale, their prices are likely to decrease once they become mandatory, similar to rearview cameras. Anything less than a robust system would put children at continued risk and provide families with a false sense of security.

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness will continue to emphasize the preventable nature of hot car deaths and highlights the need for the U.S. DOT to act swiftly and decisively. As temperatures rise, deferring, delaying, or diluting the implementation of life-saving regulations is not an option.

By sending this letter to Secretary Buttigieg, the Institute for Childhood Preparedness aims to raise awareness and encourage the U.S. DOT to prioritize the well-being and safety of children. It is time to ensure that no more lives are lost due to the tragic consequences of hot car incidents.

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness is committed to lowering childhood deaths. We have partnered with Kids and Cars to bring you a free on-demand course on preventing hot car deaths.


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