A pair of North Texas parents who nearly lost their son by accidentally leaving him in a hot car, hopes that action by congress could help prevent others from making the same mistake.
In June of 2015, Eric Stuyvesant of Garland had a slight change in his schedule for the day and accidentally left his 3-year-old son, Michael, in the family’s vehicle for more than an hour.
"I raced out to the car to find Michael clinging to life,” Stuyvesant recalled.
The boy suffered six strokes, but survived the ordeal, and now has recovered almost completely.
Eric and his wife Michelle, on the other hand, say that moment of forgetfulness has changed their lives forever.
"Yeah, every day 'I wonder how did that happen to me?'" said Eric.
So the family is joining with others across the country to try to make a change.
On Thursday morning, the Stuyvesants took part in a conference call alongside Congressional Representatives Tim Ryan, Jan Schakowsky and several vehicle safety experts to introduce the Hot Cars Act of 2016.
The bill, also authored by Rep. Peter King of New York and already introduced to Congress, aims to create new mandates in the next two years that require vehicle manufacturers to add some sort of reminder to new vehicles so parents remember to check the back seat for children before leaving the car.
“I get a warning if my keys are in the car. I get a warning if my dog is in the seat,” said Schakowsky during the conference call. "This is not new technology.”
Already, General Motors has started adding such a reminder to one of their new vehicle models, and the group called that a good start.
So far this year, 29 children have died in hot cars and on average, close to 40 die each year.
Also on the conference call were the Harrison family of Pennsylvania and the Seitz family of Colorado, whose children both didn’t make it after being left in their cars.
“I had killed my son. I did it, my poor, sweet little boy,” said Miles Harrison. “This did not have to happen. If there had been a simple chime to alert me of my son’s presence, none of this would have happened.”
South Florida Psychology expert Dr. David Diamond joined the call to explain that in most cases of hot car deaths, the parents’ routine for the day has changed slightly for some reason and the part of their brain that is used to the normal routine just goes on a sort of auto pilot, making them forget their child was never dropped off a day care or taken out of the vehicle.
“Children will continue to die in cars unless something is done to help the over-taxed brain,” said Janette Fennell of KidsAndCars.org.
The group said that they’d like to see improvements to the warning technology available, but that at this point, the bill simply asks for something to be put into cars to act as a reminder.
The Stuyvesants said few parents walk away from these situations as lucky as they did, but they hope Congress will make the bill a priority to see even fewer ever find themselves in the terrible situation.