I read with interest a story out of the US overnight that Congress is pushing for car makers to equip all US-built vehicles with systems that remind motorists of passengers in the back seat.
The car makers are on board and it’s anticipated that by model year 2025, all cars will indeed come equipped with a raft of yet more warning systems.
According to statistics, more than 800 children have died from heatstroke in the US over the last two decades, after being left in parked cars.
Tellingly, 53 of those deaths came last year, the highest number in the last two decades.
And before you scoff at those ‘careless Americans’, bear in mind Australia isn’t immune to this epidemic, with statistics recording over 5000 callouts annually after children were found left in cars.
According to the report, 20 car makers have committed to including audible and visual alerts on all new cars by 2025. The 20 represent 98 per cent of all US vehicle sales. The manufacturers include General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai and Honda.
Some manufacturers, such as GM, already include alerts, both audible and a visual reminder on the dashboard to check for children in the back before exiting the vehicle. Indeed, some cars in Australia already provide an alert on the instrument cluster.
A system being developed by Hyundai goes one step further. Ultrasonic sensors that can detect the movement of children and pets will activate the system that will then beep the vehicle’s horn as well as sending an alert to the driver’s smartphone.
While it seems US car makers are voluntarily on board, some US politicians are pushing for legislation that would make it mandatory for car makers to equip all new cars with the technology.
Representatives Frank Pallone and Jan Schakowsky who sit on panels overseeing the car industry, issued a joint statement that read, in part, that the effort is “a big step in the right direction”, but that “voluntary commitments don’t necessarily result in meaningful action.”
The statement adds that Congress should “pursue legislation that requires these companies to take the necessary steps to protect children and holds the companies accountable.”
Meanwhile, the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is planning to double its investment in its heatstroke awareness campaign, ‘Where’s Baby’.
Look, I’m all for anything that minimises risk, and I’m fully on board with this latest push by legislators and car makers.
But, my goodness, this is something we really shouldn’t need, because if you’re a parent, every car already has the perfect reminder sitting right there in the back seat. It’s called ‘your child’.