I saw this hot news story and it has me thinking. Regulations to be considered for leaving children in cars in hot weather.
Do we need or even want our lawmakers mandating that automakers install devices or systems to remind us that drivers might have a passenger in the backseat of the car?
Hold on, hold on. Before you start trying to burn me in effigy for not caring enough, give me a minute. Losing a child—or pet for that matter—from accidentally leaving them in the backseat of a car on a hot day is terrible and traumatic and tragic. I am not denying that emotional truth.
But while it is tragic, and unfortunate, do we really need the government involved? According to the article it would take about 20 years to implement because well, let’s face it, the government moves at a glacial pace. Consider, too,that GM has already installed reminder systems without government intervention in newer model vehicles.
More than likely other automakers will follow suit. And if they don’t and you have children, don’t buy vehicles that don’t have reminder systems if you need them. When dollars from Company A go to GM because GM has rear seat reminder systems Company A might follow suit. That’s called capitalism. And it doesn’t take the government getting involved.
Also, look at the name of the bill: Helping Overcome Trauma from Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (HOT CARS). This might be splitting hairs but is the bill to save children or to assuage the trauma of adults who accidentally killed their child? In testimony before Congress, Mike Harrison told the story of leaving his child in the car on a hot day. The child died, Mr. Harrison was not found guilty of a crime and he has to live with that trauma. Is our answer to pass laws so we don’t have to hurt?
Look, I get the logic that one child’s death is too many. And that is true. What if I had left my child in the back of a car when she was a toddler? I would probably also not ever want to hurt like that again and never forgive myself and want something done to prevent that hurt. But at what point do I take responsibility and leave it at that?
The lawmakers say that awareness saves lives. Since 1990, 800 children have died in the backseat of cars. And that is one of the factors cited in necessitating the HOT CARS Act. That math works out to about 30 deaths per year over the last 27 years, by the way.
As a rule, we should always be leery in my opinion of defaulting to “what about the children?” anytime increasing government presence is involved
But what do you think? Do we need the government mandating that cars have safety features to curb our own carelessness? Or is it up to the individual automaker to install safety features and, ultimately, the responsibility of the parent to remember that they have a child in the backseat?
Nissan has decided to make automatic braking standard on most of its vehicles four years before the federal mandate.
Nissan cites “customer acceptance” of the technology for the early rollout. Maybe I am a cynic, but that probably means customers wanted it as a feature on their new cars.
This proves my earlier point about government mandating car features.
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach® is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. Post your comments on Twitter: @LaurenFix or on her Facebook Page.
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