Florida Ranking Second for Hot Car Deaths Prompts Calls for Heat-Detecting Technology

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Florida Ranking Second for Hot Car Deaths Prompts Calls for Heat-Detecting Technology Florida ranks second in the nation for hot car deaths, according to the nonprofit Kids and Cars. This is prompting advocates to call for legislation to keep kids from dying in hot cars.
Recently, a 2-year-old in Homestead died after she was left in a hot car by a woman who was reportedly supposed to take her to daycare, according to Tampa Bay 10.
The House recently passed the Hot Cars Act of 2021. This would require cars to have systems that alert parents or passersby if a child or pet is left unattended in a car, according to Gaston Gazette.
A blue car parked next to a palm tree near the water in Florida
Florida ranks second in the nation for hot car deaths

Technology to help prevent hot car deaths

Advocates of the technology to prevent hot car deaths say it’s cost effective and practical. The technology works by using heat sensors to detect if a child or pet is in the car.
A 3D imaging sensor detects if there’s movement in the car after the engine is turned off. If movement is detected, the registered driver will be alerted with a text message, phone call, or car alarm. If the car is electric, the air conditioner will turn on.
There are other technologies that do more—like detecting carbon dioxide, weight, vitals, and temperature. Hyundai and Kia reportedly have similar systems in some of their models already.
The legislation would make the technology standard on all new cars. Years of similar proposals haven’t been passed while hot car deaths continue to rise, according to USA Today.

Stats on hot car deaths

Kids and Cars found that since 1990, more than 1,000 children have died from heatstroke in hot cars. In 2018 alone, there were 54 child deaths due to hot cars, which is the most of any year so far. The organization said that on average, there are about 39 deaths a year from heatstroke in a hot car.
There were about 25 deaths in 2020. This may have been lower due to lockdowns and less people driving during the height of the pandemic.

A Florida professor’s perspective

David Diamond, a professor in the University of South Florida’s psychology department, believes that hot car deaths will increase again, as people are returning to their normal routines after the pandemic, according to USA Today.
The professor also pointed out that hot car deaths can happen to anyone—even someone that considers themselves to be a good parent.
He said it often happens out of habit, as most memory errors happen out of prospective memory. That’s when a person intends to perform a task in the future, and there’s no prompt to retrieve the memory of the task and perform it.
A parent who usually doesn’t drive their child to daycare might have to because the other parent is sick. Out of habit, they might go to work instead and lose awareness that the child is in the car.

History of the Hot Cars Act

In 2016, the Hot Cars Act was introduced as a standalone bill.
Then in 2019, the Hot Cars Act made it to the Senate and was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives as part of The Moving Forward Act. The House recently passed the Hot Cars Act of 2021.

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