Proposed Law Could Prevent Heat-Related Child Car Deaths

ST. LOUIS (CBS) – A newly proposed law would require cars to be equipped with sensors, alerting drivers once the car is turned off that a child is in the backseat.

Some argue the technology might not find its way to the parents who need it most, but advocates say the law is needed because the stakes are just too high.

“I have not forgiven myself.”

Miles and Carol Harrison always wanted a child. They were overjoyed when they adopted Chase, but on a busy, 90-degree day back in 2008, Miles forgot to drop the 21-month-old off at daycare, leaving him in the backseat of his car while he went to work.

“And it’s heartbreaking, because I did it. I killed my son,” Miles says.

“Nobody thinks it will happen to them, until it happens,” Carol says.

Chase’s death was one of more than 700 heat stroke fatalities of children left in cars since 1998 — an average of 37 per year.

The first seven months of this year have been the worst in terms of heat-related child car deaths since 2010.

The tragedies can happen quickly. When it’s around 90 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can rise to above 130 degrees in less than an hour.

“All cars ought to include sensors that can, very simply, save lives.”

Aiming to prevent these tragedies, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced legislation requiring car makers to install sensor technology alerting drivers to a baby left in a car seat.

“Consumers should want this product, just as they do seat belts and airbags,” he says.

General Motors began offering a similar sensor for some models this year, but the alliance of automobile manufacturers says the proposed mandate would miss car buyers who need it most, because so few parents of young children buy new cars.

The Harrisons hope the law goes through.

“We need to stop families having to deal with what I’ve done to our family. This law can do that,” Miles says.

Blumenthal, a Democrat, believes any added cost for the standard feature would be minimal. He says the measure should attract strong bi-partisan support, and hopes to see it in new cars as soon as 2019.

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