WASHINGTON, D.C. - Parents and families who unknowingly left children in hot cars joined members of Congress and safety advocates Wednesday to announce the introduction of the 'Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act of 2017' – a bipartisan bill requiring cars to be equipped with existing technology to alert drivers that a passenger remains in the back seat when a car is turned off.
More than 800 children have died from heatstroke in hot cars since 1990, including nine children so far in 2017. With temperatures rising as summer quickly approaches, the risk grows even greater.
These staggering statistics are what inspired the Hot Car Act. Its chief sponsors are:
- U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio-13)
- U.S. Representative Peter King (R-New York-2)
- U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois-9)
- Deona Ryan Bien (Charleston, SC): mother of Aslyn, who died Feb. 7, 2004 at age 1 after being unknowingly left in a hot car.
- Norman Collins (Raleigh, NC): grandfather of Norman Lee Van Collins III, who died May 29, 2011 at age 3 months after being unknowingly left in a hot car in Mississippi.
- Miles and Carol Harrison (Purcellville, VA): parents of Chase, who died July 8, 2008 at age 21 months after being unknowingly left in a hot car.
- Janette Fennell, President and Founder of KidsAndCars.org
- Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
- David Diamond, PhD, University of South Florida, Tampa. Professor of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology; Director, Neuroscience Collaborative Program and Center for Preclinical and Clinical Research on PTSC.
Arkansas Judge Wade Naramore and his wife, Ashley, are all too familiar with this issue. Their 18-month-old son, Thomas, died from being left in a hot car in July 2015.
According to the arrest report, Judge Naramore said he went to work at 8:15 a.m. with his son in the back seat. Naramore said he had a court case he was worried about and went to work as he did each day. He got off work early, ran some errands, and went home. As he was leaving his home to pick up his son from daycare, he heard a noise in the back seat and saw his son still in his car seat and realized he had never been dropped off to daycare. Naramore said he immediately stopped the car, got his son out, and called for help.
Naramore told police his son had been in the back seat for about five hours. His son died from "excessive heat."
Naramore was charged with negligent homicide, but eventually found not guilty in August 2016. After being off the bench for some time, he was eventually allowed to return to his job as Garland County Circuit Judge (though he was no longer allowed to work on family court cases).
Naramore's wife, Ashley, released the following statement Wednesday in response to the roll out of the Hot Car Act:
"We are hopeful that in the very near future, car manufacturers will be required to implement safeguards that will alert a driver if a rear-facing child is left in a vehicle after it is turned off. While education and public awareness efforts are crucial to preventing hot car deaths, education alone will not completely eliminate the risk of unknowingly leaving a child in a car. It is impossible to educate everyone, and most people think this tragedy could never happen to them. We certainly did not think it could happen to our family; until it did. Cost effective technology has existed for ten years. Technology accounts for faults our memory system, faults that even the most attentive people have. Seeing lawmakers acknowledge the need for a solution and taking steps to prevent future tragedies is so encouraging. We long for the day when we can take comfort in knowing that everything possible has been done to prevent other families from standing in the shoes that we stand in today. Until then, we will continue to do all we can to save lives through our son's legacy of love."
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