'I killed my son': Grieving parents push for tech to curb hot car deaths

Credit: CBS News

(CBS) -- If passed, a new piece of legislation would require cars to be equipped with sensors, alerting drivers once the car is turned off that a child is in the back seat.

Critics debate whether the technology would find its way to the parents who need it most, but supporters claim the law is needed because the stakes are so high, CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports.

Miles and Carol Harrison were filled with joy when the adopted Chase. But on a busy day in 2008, Miles forgot to drop the 21-month-old off at day care, leaving him in the back seat of his car in the 90-degree heat while he went to work.

"I have not forgiven myself," Miles told CBS News. "And it's heartbreaking because I did it, I killed my son."

Chase's death was one of over 700 heatstroke fatalities of children left in cars since 1998 -- an average of 37 per year.

Experts said the first seven months of 2017 have been the worst in terms of heat-related child car deaths since 2010. When it's about 90 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can rise above 130 degrees in less than one hour.

"Nobody thinks it will happen to them, until it happens," Carol said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal introduced a bill that would require carmakers to install sensor technology that would alert drivers if a baby is left in a car seat.

"All cars ought to include sensors that can very simply save lives," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

General Motors started offering a similar sensor for some 2017 models. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the proposed mandate would miss consumers who need it most, "because so few parents of young children buy new cars."

But, the Harrison family still has high hopes the law will go through.

"We need to stop families having to deal with what I've done to our family. This law can do that," Miles said through tears.

Sen. Blumenthal expects his measure to attract bipartisan support and hopes to see it in vehicles starting in 2019.