Sen. Richard Blumenthal again pitches law to prevent hot car deaths

By Russell Blair

August 12, 2019

Sen. Richard Blumenthal is a frequent critic of automakers, but he had kinder words for the industry Monday as he drummed up support for legislation aimed at stopping the deaths of children left in hot cars.

Blumenthal’s bill would require new cars to be equipped with sensors that would alert the driver that there is a child in the backseat when they turn off the ignition. He said some car companies have already voluntarily included that technology on new models.

“Dealerships across the state have been responsible,” Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during a news conference at Chevrolet of Milford. “They’re doing the right thing, most of them, voluntarily.”

Jim Fleming, president of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, which represents the state’s car dealers, said his group is backing Blumenthal’s legislation, which was first introduced in 2017.

“The idea about making this standard equipment is very important,” Fleming said. “It ought to be in all cars because all cars can make these children very vulnerable.”

As an example, Blumenthal said, on an 82-degree day like Monday, the temperature inside a car can rise to 120 degrees in 10 minutes.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 15 major automakers, was more wary of the proposed legislation.

“The Alliance will carefully review any legislative proposals keeping in mind that fewer than 13% of new car buyers have a child six years old or younger,” the group said in a written statement. “And with people keeping cars longer, it takes about two decades for a technology to reach all the passenger vehicles on our roads. Greater public awareness saves live today.”

There have been no hot car deaths in Connecticut this year, but there were two in the state last year, in May and July. Across the country so far this year there have been 32 deaths, according to Blumenthal.

Blumenthal’s bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate. A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

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