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Auto Makers Seek Tech Solutions To Children Left In Hot Cars

Several automobile manufacturers have started to equip vehicles with new safety features designed to remind drivers that children are in the back seat, as part of a continuing effort to save the lives lost as a result of children being accidentally left alone in hot vehicles. 

The National Safety Council (NSC) released a new report this month that indicates that an average of 37 children die each year due to pediatric vehicular heatstroke, which is usually attributed to parents or caregivers forgetting their child was in the back seat when they exit the vehicle.

So far, only 21 states have laws against leaving a child unattended in a car. Eight states pose the possibility of felony charges for those who deliberately leave a child alone. However, in nearly all of the tragic deaths, the parent or caregiver unintentionally left the child behind, forgetting that they had the young child strapped into the backseat.

The NSC stated each and every one of these deaths is preventable with modern day technology, and is encouraging vehicle manufacturers to adopt systems that sound alarms or chimes to remind parents to check the back seats before exiting a car.

One form of technology that has been recently used in certain GMC models is a Rear Seat Reminder system, which will sound a chime five times and sound a message to check the rear seat when the vehicle is turned off, if a rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the vehicle is started, or is opened and closed while the vehicle is running.

The second form of technology the NSC supports is SensorSafe carseats with technology to generate a series of tones activated through a “smart” chest clip and wireless receiver to remind the driver that a child is in the rear seat within two seconds of turning off the vehicle.

In October 2017, Hyundai released a Rear Occupant Alert System that was introduced into certain models that monitors the rear seats using an ultrasonic sensor that helps to detect movement of children.

The system is designed to remind the driver to check the rear seats when exiting the vehicle with a message on the center instrument cluster by honking the horn, flashing lights, and by sending a Blue Link alert to the drivers smartphone vis the Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system. Hyundai announced this system will be available in all 2019 models.

The National Safety Council estimated that a child is killed by being left in a hot car every 9 days. Most parents and caregivers are unaware that even with the windows cracked, the temperate inside a car can reach 125 degrees in just mild weather conditions.

Consumer safety advocates, Safe Kids Worldwide has produced a toolkit for parents and caregivers to follow that includes printable tips for everything you need to know to keep your children safe from heatstroke. Their recommendations include:

  • Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute
  • Keep your car locked when you are not in it so kids don’t gain access
  • Create reminders by putting something in the back seat next to your child, such as a briefcase, purse, cell phone or your left shoe
  • If you see a child alone in a car, call 911
  • Set a calendar reminder on your electronic device to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare; develop a plan so you will be alerted if your child is late or a no-show

A child is much more susceptible to experience a vehicular heatstroke than an adult, because a child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult’s body. Incidents report submitted to the NSC have found children have died in hot cars when the outside temperature was as low as 60 degrees.

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