By Tracey Dowdy
According to the National Safety Council, forty-two children have died after being left alone in a hot vehicle in 2019. While the danger is highest during the summer, deaths have been recorded for every month thus far, and are a risk in every state, even those with moderate temperatures. The NSC reports that “with an outside ambient air temperature of 72°F, the internal vehicle temperature can reach 117°F within 60 minutes, with 80% of the temperature increase occurring in the first 30 minutes.” If the temperature is between 72° and 96°F, the temperature inside your vehicle can jump 40 degrees in an hour.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that heatstroke is the leading cause of non-car crash vehicular death in children under 15.
Hacks, like putting your cell phone or work bag in the back seat beside your child or creating your own version of Sophie’s Baby Forget-Me-Not, are practical ways to remind yourself to check the backseat. Alternatively, you could set a reminder in your phone, make a habit of calling or texting a spouse or family member to confirm drop-off or ask your daycare to text notification if your child isn’t dropped off.
This year’s number is higher than average, and in response, automakers in the US have voluntarily committed to adding rear-seat warnings in essentially all new cars and trucks by model year 2025. The details of what the alerts will look like are unclear, however, they’re likely to be a combination of “auditory and visual alerts” that will turn on after the driver turns off the vehicle.
Some vehicles, like the Kia Telluride, already come with a Rear-Occupant Alert System. Not only will it give you an on-screen alert that someone’s in the back, but it will also set off the car’s alarm if you walk away.
Until technology like this is available across the board, there are
devices available that can help you remember to check the backseat and prevent any more tragic deaths.
Your favorite traffic app, Waze, can be set up to remind you to check the backseat when you reach your destination. Go to Settings and turn on the “Child Reminder” feature to start getting the notifications. You can even set a personalized message to further customize the alert.
On the other hand, if you’re not a fan of Waze – currently, Cookie Monster is narrating my turn by turn directions, but you do you – the Kars 4 Kids Safety App for Android is available on Google Play. The app connects to your car’s Bluetooth so that when you leave the car, an alarm sounds. You can even add your child’s photo to customize the reminder.
The Elepho eClip Baby Reminder is a car seat baby alarm that attaches to the car seat or seat belt, connects to your smartphone, and sends proximity alerts. Once activated, it syncs via Bluetooth to either your smartphone or an accompanying key fob. If you leave your child in the car and walk more than 15 feet away, an alarm will sound. If for any reason you don’t respond, the eClip will automatically text your spouse, partner, family, or friend. It also has a built-in thermometer and will alert the driver if the backseat is overheating or too cold.
The Backseat App is available on iPhones and Android, and because it doesn’t rely on Bluetooth, it’s useful to parents who are driving older model vehicles that don’t have the technology built-in. One of its best features is that it works in multiple countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, New Zealand, and the U.K. Via the car’s GPS, the app reminds drivers to check the backseat when the car is parked. If the driver fails to respond to the alert, an email and a text message are sent to three pre-selected contacts that there’s a possibility a child has been left in the car. The messages also send the location of your vehicle, along with your car’s identifying characteristics.
The CYBEX Sirona M SensorSafe Car Seat is for children from birth up to 65 lbs, (approx. 4 years). When you get out of the car, the SensorSafe 2.0 automatically reminds you about the baby in the car seat via both the installed vehicle receiver and again through the SensorSafe app available for iOS and Android. The system turns on after you’ve driven for 30 seconds at 5 mph or more and monitors both whether the car seat’s chest clip is buckled or unbuckled and the temperature inside the car, using an internal thermometer in the chest clip. When the vehicle is stopped, the ignition turned off, or the chest clip released, an alert sounds, signaling that your child is still in their car seat.
The Ride N Remind system monitors your vehicle’s rear doors and is automatically activated when either rear door is opened and closes within fifteen minutes of your vehicle is started or if the rear doors are opened and closed while your vehicle is running. Once the ignition is turned off, Ride & Remind emits a distinctive and continuous chime, reminding you to check the backseat. To deactivate the chime, users press a button located inside, near the rear door. If for any reason the chime is not responded to within 40 seconds, your car’s horn will alert you and anyone nearby with a loud, continuous SOS signal. Note: requires professional installation.
If your child’s caregiver isn’t a big smartphone user, the Bee-Safe Child Auto Alarm is a low-cost system that alerts drivers to the possibility of children both in the back seat or behind the vehicle. The design is decidedly low tech – just peel and stick the unit on the panel behind the driver’s door. Installation takes less than 30 seconds. Best of all, they’re currently offering a Fall buy-one-get-one sale.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.