The first step to preventing heatstroke deaths in children is helping to remind exhausted parents and caregivers that there’s a baby in the backseat of their car. The good news is there are high-tech and low-tech ways to call attention to the fact that there’s still a baby onboard — possibly a sleeping baby. These gadgets are found in cars, car seats and even a smartphone app.
While many may wonder how someone could forget their own child in the car, it happens too many times each year. On average, 37 children die because they were left unattended in a parked car, and the majority of these in-car heatstroke deaths are accidents that are preventable. It doesn’t take long for the interior of a car to heat up. In our own test on a 78-degree day in Miami this spring, the car’s interior temperature increased at the rate of a degree a minute. On a hot day, the interior temperature can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It may seem expensive to consider buying a new car for this heatstroke-prevention technology, but for many expecting parents, the birth of their first child often means upgrading their car to fit a family. Three automakers cater to families with in-car systems that signal that there may be a child in the backseat after the car is parked.
GM’s Rear Seat Reminder system uses an audible chime and a message on the instrument panel to remind the driver to check the backseat after the vehicle has been turned off. This system is available in Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC models.
With Nissan’s Rear Door Alert system, if the vehicle’s rear door was opened at the start of a trip, the vehicle will honk its horn multiple times to remind the driver to check the rear seat after the vehicle is parked and the driver has exited the car. The system can be temporarily or permanently disabled. It’s available in the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder.
Hyundai’s Rear Occupant Alert system monitors the backseat with an ultrasonic sensor that detects a child’s movement. If it detects a child, the system displays a message for the driver in the instrument cluster’s LCD screen. If the driver has left the car, the system honks the horn, flashes the lights and sends an alert to the driver’s smartphone through Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system. The system will be offered in the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe, a Hyundai spokeswoman told Cars.com.
Maybe a new car isn’t in the budget right now. If that’s the case — and it is for the majority of us — there are relatively inexpensive offerings to ensure that you keep your child safe.
Evenflo offers its SensorSafe lineup of child-safety seats that emit a tone once the car is turned off to alert adults that there’s a child in the backseat. The car seat lineup comes with a chest clip transmitter and a receiver plug that’s inserted into a car’s data diagnostics port. The receiver plug can tell when the car is running. If the car seat’s chest clip remains fastened after the car is turned off, an alarm sounds to remind the driver of the child in the backseat. The SensorSafe lineup includes infant car seats, convertible car seats, a combination car seat and an all-in-one car seat. Cost: $60-$280
The iRemind Car Seat Alarm uses a sensor pad and an iPhone to help remind weary parents when they’ve left their little one in their car seat. The sensor pad is inserted under the cushion of your child’s car seat. Once the child is placed in the car seat, the alarm system beeps to let you know it’s activated and has synced with the smartphone app. The app will emit an alarm if you walk more than 15 feet away from your car with the child still in the car seat. Cost: $99
The Kars4Kids app uses Bluetooth to sound an alarm in your car’s speakers when you and your phone leave the car. The app is free and can be disabled when you’re not traveling with your child. It’s only available on Android currently.
Low-Tech Ways to Help Parents
While we live in a high-tech world, there are simple things parents can do to help remember their little one in the backseat.
- Put your bag, purse, backpack, briefcase or office badge on the floor of the car’s backseat when your child is riding in the car with you, according to NHTSA. This will force you to open the rear door to retrieve the item — and your kid.
- Set up a system with whomever cares for your child to have them call you if the child doesn’t arrive by a certain time on daycare days. Be sure to use this tip whenever you have a break in your usual routine, such as one parent doing daycare drop off instead of the other.
- Never leave a child alone in a car — not even for a second.
- Always lock your car when it’s parked — even if it’s in your garage. This will keep children from playing in the car and potentially getting trapped in it.
When it comes to protecting your child, there’s no single method or technology that’s superior to another. The best plan to prevent hot-car deaths is to pick and choose several of these methods to ensure your child doesn’t become a tragic heatstroke statistic.
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