Nearly all U.S. vehicles will be equipped with systems to remind motorists of passengers in the back seat by model year 2025. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, whose 20 members account for nearly 98 percent of all vehicle sales in the United States, are committing to install technology on new vehicles that includes audible and visual alerts for exiting parents to check for children in the back seat. The statement did not specify which kinds of cars would be specifically targeted under the new initiative.
The move is part of an effort to avoid deaths of young children left behind in hot cars. Lawmakers say more than 800 children in parked vehicles have died from heatstroke in the U.S. over the last two decades. According to NoHeatStroke.org, 38 children have died from “pediatric vehicular deaths” in 2019. The advocacy group Kids and Cars says a record 54 children were killed last year.
John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers, said in a statement, “Children die each year from heatstroke suffered when left unattended in the back seat of passenger vehicles. As most of these deaths are caused by children being unintentionally left in vehicles, our members are taking action to help prevent these tragic losses by adding rear-seat reminder systems to prompt parents and caregivers to check the back seat before exiting their car.”
The U.S. Congress has been debating the issue. In July, the Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation to require automakers to install the technology in vehicles in the future. Under the legislation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would write regulations for the issue and automakers would have at least two years to implement the changes. A similar bill has already been introduced in the House.
Automakers say the voluntary agreement will get the alerts installed faster than a government regulation, which takes four to eight years. For example, a NHTSA proposal to require automakers to send email notifications of recalls has been pending for more than three years.