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Consumer Reports letter to NHTSA on hot cars and occupant detection

Dear Secretary Buttigieg and Acting Administrator Carlson:

Consumer Reports (CR), the independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan member organization, is writing to urge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to propose strong requirements for systems in passenger motor vehicles to protect children from heatstroke-related deaths and injuries. We consider it essential and practicable for NHTSA to require these systems to provide active detection of an occupant in the rear seat, not just an end-of-trip reminder.

Tragically, about 38 children die each year from vehicular heatstroke. According to data collected by NoHeatStroke.org, 26 children have already died this year. This past summer was the hottest on record, but even on days with mild temperatures, the heat inside a closed vehicle can reach dangerous levels within an hour, posing major health risks to small children or pets left inside. CR’s testing has found that even when it was 61° F outside, the temperature inside a closed car reached more than 105° F in just one hour, an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal level for a child.

As you are aware, safety advocates have been calling for years for automakers to incorporate effective heatstroke prevention technology into all new vehicles. In 2021, CR began providing a Rear Seat Safety Score enabling consumers to compare rear-seat safety features across popular new vehicles. In our evaluation of more than 100 vehicle models in the past two years, we have seen 82 models (77% of the total) equipped with end-of-trip reminders and 11 models (10% of the total) with occupant sensing.

To read the full letter, click here.