Congressman Jim Cooper

Representing the 5th District of Tennessee
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HOT CARS Act Passes House

Sep 6, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today celebrated House passage of critical legislation for Tennesseans that would prevent infants and toddlers from being killed or injured when unknowingly left behind in vehicles.

Cosponsored by Rep. Cooper earlier this summer and passed today as part of a larger bill, the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act would require the federal government to issue a final rule requiring stringent safety features in all new passenger vehicles.

The HOT CARS Act says each vehicle must 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.

In the last 19 years, at least 736 children have died of heatstroke after being left in vehicles; 25 of those deaths occurred in Tennessee, consistently placing our state in the 10 highest totals nationwide, according to NoHeatStroke.org, a program supported by the National Safety Council. This year, 36 children have suffered such a death in America, including an 11-month-old infant in Chattanooga and a 2-year-old child in Gatlinburg in July.

“I’m thankful for quick House passage, and I hope the Senate follows our sense of urgency,” Rep. Cooper said. “Smart legislative action would help save precious lives.”

NASA engineers developed a child presence sensor in 2003, but the agency has only had one potential license, which was withdrawn.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 HOT CARS bill.

A bipartisan effort, the HOT CARS Act was introduced by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and 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.