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New technology in infrastructure bill could prevent hot car deaths

So far in 2021, 23 children have died in hot cars.

TAMPA, Fla. — New cars would be required to have technology to prevent children from being left in hot vehicles under a mandate included in the sweeping infrastructure bill.

More than 1,000 children have died in hot cars nationwide since 1990 with an average of 39 children dying every year according to KidsAndCars.org. The year with the most fatalities was 2018 with 54 deaths. 

For at least 15 years, advocates have been fighting for preventative technology in cars to help children who get trapped in hot vehicles.

"We’ve been working for over a decade to get legislation passed that could address the hot car issue. It’s something that's been trending upward and it’s not going away without technology," said Amber Rollins, the director of Kids and Car Safety.

Rollins calls the legislation a win but says there's still more work to be done. She and other advocates say a "rear-seat reminder" or beeping sound is not the most effective technology in preventing tragedies.

"We need to take it a step further by including technology that can detect a child in the vehicle and what’s really cool is it can also detect pets because we lose a lot of pets every year to hot car tragedies," she said.

As of now, the legislation doesn't require the specific technology that detects a living, breathing being in a vehicle. Instead, less sophisticated systems that rely on "door logic" are likely to get put on the books.

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The mandate is among several road-safety provisions in the infrastructure bill. It also calls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to put technology in new vehicles that stop people from drunk driving.

Campaigners against drunk driving say the new technology could actually eliminate impaired driving altogether.

"It's critical and it's huge and it's such a perfect time given that we know there's been an increase in hazardous driving behaviors throughout the pandemic," said Alex Otte, the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and survivor of a drunk boating accident when an impaired boater ran into her at 70 miles-per-hour while she was on a jet ski.

According to MADD, more than 10,000 people were killed in 2019 due to impaired driving and there are on average 300,000 injuries every year.

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