Congressman Jim Cooper

Representing the 5th District of Tennessee
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Cooper Cosponsors HOT CARS Bill to Protect Infants and Toddlers

Jul 19, 2017
Press Release
Legislation Would Require a Warning System on Every New Passenger Vehicle

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) has cosponsored the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act, a critical bill for Tennessee that would prevent infants and toddlers from being killed or injured when unknowingly left behind in vehicles.

Since 1998, more than 700 children have died of heatstroke after being left in vehicles; 25 of those deaths occurred in Tennessee – tied for the seventh-highest total among all states, according to NoHeatStroke.org, a program supported by the National Safety Council. Already this year, 23 children have died this way in America, including an 11-month-old infant in Chattanooga and a 2-year-old child in Gatlinburg earlier this month.

The HOT CARS Act would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a final rule requiring each new passenger vehicle to be equipped with a reminder system to alert the driver if a passenger remains in the back seat when a vehicle is turned off. The technology is available and akin to a seat belt reminder, complete with warning sounds and flashing graphics near the speedometer.

“Your car already reminds you to fasten your seatbelt, so why can’t it also remind you to check the rear seat?” Rep. Cooper said. “That could be the difference between the life and death of a child.”

NASA engineers developed a child presence sensor in 2003, but the agency has only had one potential license, which was withdrawn. Some car seat manufacturers have installed child presence sensors on their car seats, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has warned against relying on these systems. To date, only General Motors has installed a Rear Seat Reminder. It is available on more than 20 vehicles and is now a standard feature on many of GM’s 2017 and 2018 model vehicles.

More than 20 of the nation’s leading public health, consumer and safety organizations support the bipartisan HOT CARS bill.

The HOT CARS Act was introduced by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), joined by Reps. Peter King (R-NY) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Last fall Tim Ryan challenged Nancy Pelosi for Democratic Leader. Along with more than 60 other Democrats, Rep. Cooper supported Tim Ryan, saying he is part of a new generation and applauding his vision to lead House Democrats.