WASHINGTON, DC – Thirty-two; the number of children who died after being left in hot cars in North Carolina over the last 26 years.
Overall, 800 children have died nationwide since 1990 from heatstroke after being left in a hot car.
Members of Congress, safety advocates and parents was to prevent the next one from happening.
KidsandCars.org, a website dedicated to providing education, solutions and data surrounding the deaths of children in or near unattended cars, keeps track of hot car death. NC ranks 6th in the nation with 32. Texas leads with 113 and Mississippi is ranked 15th with 18 deaths. One of those Mississippi deaths, the three-month-old grandson of Dr. Norman Collins.
“Bishop was born on February 17, 2011 and he was just a very bouncing, fun, healthy baby boy. He was my seventh grandchild, My namesake.”
Norman “Bishop” Lee Van Collins III, was unknowingly left in a hot car on May 29, 2011. The baby’s family arrived at church, and while his mother grabbed his older sister, his father oversaw grabbing Bishop and the church's musical equipment out of the car for church. His father, a minister, was carrying a keyboard and asked another church member to help get Bishop out of the car.
It never happened, and Bishop sat in the car on a 93-degree day during the entire two-and-a-half-hour church service.
“I just couldn’t wrap my head around it,” said Collins.
Originally, Bishop’s father was charged with negligent homicide, but the charges were dropped days before his child’s funeral.
"Prior to that happening I was not ever aware of hot car deaths and I probably would have been like others, well, how could that happen?"
Six years later, Collins drove from his home of Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC on June 6th, where he joined sponsors of the bipartisan bill for the announcement the following morning.
Called the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act of 2017, the bill would require cars to be equipped with existing technology to alert drivers that a passenger remains in the back seat when a car is turned off.
“It would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set regulations for automakers. They would have to come up with a solution through technology,” said Amber Andreasen, a spokesperson for KidsandCars.org.
Andreasen explained there are several existing technologies that haven’t made it to the market just yet. But, if the bill were to pass, it would be up to the auto industry to find what works best to prevent the deaths.
It’s logical, a news release from the website said. “Cars have reminder systems for headlights left on, keys left in ignitions, low tire pressure, and to buckle your seatbelt, among others.” So, why not one for a child left in a car?
Collins said, "If this is going to be something that is going to save a life, I would rather save an x number of dollars for that to be in my car to keep me from having to go through the pain and the agony of having to lose someone when I know it was preventable."
Andreasen said many factors contribute to loving and responsible parents unknowingly leaving a child behind in a hot car. Those factors include, a change in routine, simple distractions, stress and/or fatigue. Babysitters and siblings watching the children can also be forgetful. It’s no excuse, but Andreasen hopes the bill will stop another child from becoming a statistic on their website.
Collins joined sponsors of the bill, Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH-13th), Peter King (R-NY-2nd) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9th), safety advocates as well as other parents who have lost a child to a hot car death for the announcement.
The Auto Alliance, an advocacy group representing a majority of U.S. car and light truck sales, released this statement on the proposed legislation:
“Losing children in hot cars is a tragedy, and greater public awareness and vigilance are absolutely crucial to save young lives right now, this week. That’s why automakers, as well as diverse safety groups, are conducting education and outreach campaigns. We all need to work together to avoid heatstroke deaths, so we will review the proposed legislation and provide guidance. In particular, we are concerned about proposals where it takes many years before results are seen, because nine lives have already been lost this year in hot cars. And, the proposed mandate for notification technology in cars misses the targeted population, because so few parents of young children buy new cars. Each year, less than 13% of new car buyers have a six years old or younger. And with people keeping cars longer, its takes about two decades for a technology to reach all the passenger vehicles on our roads. Greater public awareness saves lives today.”
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