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Blumenthal Introduces Bill To Prevent Child Hot Car Deaths

Gene J. Puskar

On Friday it will be three years since Benjamin Sietz, a 15-month-old boy, died after he was left in a sweltering car for an extended period of time in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal says he’s introducing a bill to try and prevent children like Benjamin from dying after being trapped in hot cars.

Blumenthal says his bill would prevent such incidents by requiring cars come equipped with sensors to alert drivers if a child is left in the back seat once the car has been turned off.

“It will become as commonplace as airbags and seat belts are. Alerting parents or caregivers that there’s a child in the back seat, who shouldn’t be left in that locked car. Look before you lock.”

Blumenthal’s bill is nicknamed the HOT CARS Act. It directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require that not only new cars come with the rear seat sensors, but that the agency study the best way to retrofit existing cars with the technology.

U.S. Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., is a co-sponsor of the bill. A similar measure has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Peter King, a Long Island Republican, is one of the sponsors.

The technology is already available in some vehicles including many of GM’s 2017 and 2018 models. The sensors can also be installed in cars that don’t already come equipped.

On average 37 children in the U.S. die each year from being trapped in overheated cars over the summer.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.