CARS.COM — Twenty-three children have died of in-car heatstroke so far this year, according to NoHeatStroke.org, and we haven’t even reached August yet. In-car heatstroke deaths are often accidents that happen because parents or caregivers are harried, distracted or have a change in their daily routine with their kids. July 31 is National Heatstroke Prevention Day. How can these tragedies be prevented?
While there are simple ways that parents can remind themselves about a sleeping child in the backseat, the Rear Seat Reminder in the redesigned 2017 GMC Acadia does the actual reminding. It prompts the driver to check the backseat for something — or more importantly someone — left back there. A GM spokeswoman said the company plans to offer the feature in 10 models in the future, including the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze and 2017 Chevrolet Malibu.
During a test drive of the Acadia with my 9-year-old son in the backseat, the Rear Seat Reminder alerted me with both audible chimes and a message on the instrument panel to check the backseat after I turned off the SUV’s engine. What I like about the standard Rear Seat Reminder is that it activates automatically — I don’t have to remember to turn it on.
The feature monitors the SUV’s rear doors, activating when either door is opened or closed when the Acadia is running or within 10 minutes of it being started. When the SUV is turned off, the alerts begin. Rear Seat Reminder doesn’t detect rear passengers or child-safety seats, however, so the driver must still take a last look at the backseat before leaving the car. There are a few other things to consider, too. Rear Seat Reminder is active only once each time the vehicle is turned on and off, and under some circumstances, it may activate even though nothing is in the rear seat. For example, if you drop a child off at school without turning off the vehicle, the Rear Seat Reminder would still be activated and send an alert even though the seat is empty.
It’s good to see an automaker join the fight against in-car heatstroke, and we hope others will follow GM’s lead and offer a system that helps parents remember their kids in the backseat. We all need to work together to make sure no more children die of in-car heatstroke.