Should NHTSA Mandate Technology To Prevent Child Heat Stroke Deaths In Cars? Page 2

October 18, 2011

Statistics on children and heat stroke, via Ward's Auto

Just this year, Safe Kids USA and its task forces in eight states have held 150 educational events and 15 press conferences to help raise awareness of the hyperthermia issue through the news media. They have distributed 8,000 posters, run print advertisements, and posted billboards in Texas. They recently expanded their outreach to make use of mass-texting technology through their partnership with Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, warning approximately 200,000 parents of young children of the dangers of hot cars.

Identifying and testing messages that resonate with parents and are most effective in raising awareness is an ongoing effort at Safe Kids USA. But more needs to be done. “As we have learned with other safety issues, legislation and enforcement can be powerful tools,” said Torine Creppy. “Right now, more states have laws about unattended dogs in vehicles than unattended kids in vehicles. This is an oversight that must be addressed.”

Ms. Creppy noted that Safe Kids USA has developed model legislation and asked for all roundtable participants to join in advocating for child protection laws in the 31 states without them. She further asked those gathered to commit to a goal of eliminating child hyperthermia deaths by 2013, if not sooner.

What will NHTSA decide?

There have been no indications what type of technology the NHTSA is currently researching, but it is a safe conclusion that they will be related to electronic technology. As noted in TheCarConnection and elsewhere, such technology already exists and can be easily modified to serve as a preventive measure to alert parents to unattended children in vehicles.  

Certainly, educational efforts must continue. The “it couldn’t happen to me” belief has to be eliminated. Yes, it could happen to you or anyone. Distracted by pressing schedules, the stress of too much to do in too little time, and running up against the clock are just three of dozens of reasons why a parent may inadvertently leave a young child in a car unattended.

What will the NHTSA decide? Would mandating potential lifesaving technology be that much of a burden? If we can be reminded that our keys are still in the ignition, or we’ve left the door or trunk open, or the gas tank is nearing empty, can’t we be reminded that we’ve left our precious cargo, our children, in the back seat?

Let’s remember that airbags and electronic stability control are now mandatory. Lane departure warning and forward collision warning systems are recommended technologies by the NHTSA in new vehicles. What’s wrong with another reminder to help us keep our children safe, should we forget they’re there?

In the meantime, check out the KidsandCars.org “Look Before You Lock” tips here.

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