NY State Senator Would Require Alarms To Prevent Hot Car Deaths

NEW CITY, NY — In the wake of a constituent’s tragic failure to remember his babies in the back seat of his car, state Sen. David Carlucci has introduced legislation requiring automobile manufacturers install a rear seat detection system on every motor vehicle sold in New York State.

The system would sound an alert if a child or pet is left in the backseat so a driver is reminded to check. The legislation, called the Heatstroke Elimination Awareness Technology (HEAT) Act, would require automobile manufacturers be in compliance with the mandate by July 1, 2021.

The bill was motivated by the death of 1-year-old twins Luna and Phoenix Rodriguez from New City. Juan Rodriguez, an Iraq war veteran, went to work at the veterans hospital in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx July 26. Police said Rodriguez told them he forgot his babies were there after he dropped an older child off at a Westchester home. He discovered them when he began driving home eight hours later. He dialed 911. Police said he was screaming, WABC reported.

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Rodriguez was charged with two felony counts of second-degree manslaughter, two felony counts of criminally negligent homicide, and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The Bronx district attorney has delayed taking the case to a grand jury.

“Being a parent, and seeing what happened to a New City father, motivated me to bring this legislation forward,” Carlucci said in an announcement about the new bill. “We know the technology exists, and its time, a rear seat detection system come standard on vehicles just like seat belts or airbags. If car manufactures want to continue to do business in New York State, then they will have to comply with the law.”

New vehicles without the technology would not be able to be registered in New York State under the bill (S.6642), while used or older model vehicles would be grandfathered in.

“AAA New York State supports the goals of Senator Carlucci’s legislation, and we will be working with him to address the problem in order to prevent future tragedies from occurring,” said John Corlett Chairman of AAA New York State’s Legislative Committee.

More than 900 babies have been left to die in cars over the past 30 years, a point the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration highlighted in this year’s Heatstroke Prevention Day awareness campaign.

The distraught New City father’s explanation for what happened to his infant twins isn’t unfamiliar, nor is it lacking in credibility, according to the NHTSA.

“Heatstroke isn’t about irresponsible people intentionally leaving children in cars,” the agency said. “Most cases occur when a child is mistakenly left or gets into a vehicle unattended and becomes trapped.”

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