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HOT CARS Act Gathers Steam in Senate

It's rare to hear of an issue getting support on both sides of the aisle in Washington these days, but preventing children from dying of heatstroke in cars is one of those issues. The Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act of 2017 is getting attention from Republicans and Democrats.

The proposal, which mandates that all cars be equipped with technology that alerts drivers when a passenger remains in the backseat after a car is turned off, just took another critical step toward becoming a reality.

Related: Hyundai Backseat Monitor Aims to Prevent Heatstroke

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KidsAndCars.org, a backer of the legislation, announced that the act was just advanced by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee as part of the AV START Act (American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act). The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the bill unanimously, but it still awaits action by the full Senate.

In-vehicle heatstroke deaths are rising; so far 39 children have died in hot cars this year, according to researchers at NoHeatstroke.org. Automakers are starting to take notice, with new preventive systems unveiled by GM, Nissan and Hyundai during the past two years.

"The data shows that education is not enough when parents under stress or experiencing sleep deprivation can unknowingly leave a child alone in a vehicle," Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, said in a statement. "All it takes is a simple change in a daily routine to cause a parent to drive past their childcare center. This bill, when signed into law, will utilize technology that is already available and being put into vehicles to save precious young lives."