WASHINGTON, D.C. --- A House committee this week approved a bill requiring the government to address a number of vehicle safety issues posing a threat to children. The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the bill to require federal regulators to search for ways to diminish blind spots in large SUVs and pickups, to prevent vehicles from rolling away and to make power windows safer, BusinessWeek reported. Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) said the bill would "help protect these young victims by instituting common-sense safety provisions in the design of cars," BusinessWeek reported. A committee in the Senate gave its OK to similar legislation in May. According to estimates, about four children die each week in backovers, strangulation from power windows, or from being left alone in hot cars without enough ventilation. The bill also includes a voluntary agreement that 19 automakers approved in 2006. The agreement calls for brake interlock systems in all new vehicles by September 2010. These systems ensure that the vehicle can shift out of park only when the brake pedal is depressed. An earlier version of this bill mandated the inclusion of backup cameras in new vehicles. But after automakers objected, arguing this would be too expensive, auto industry representatives and legislators reached a compromise. They agreed that visibility problems could be alleviated through the use of additional mirrors, sensors, cameras or other technologies. If the bill passes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would need to issue a final rule within three years of the legislation's enactment. In particular, the NHTSA would need to develop new rules requiring automakers to ensure that windows automatically reverse direction if there's an obstruction in the way. If the agency decided against issuing a final rule, it would need to explain its decision to Congress.
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