Every year as summer arrives so does news of children dying of heatstroke when they are accidentally left in cars. Lawmakers are now pushing for legislation that would require new cars to have preventive systems to remind parents when a child is in the back seat.
Since 1990, at least 800 children have died as a result of being left in hot cars. Often this happens when a parent’s usual routine is changed. Sometimes it’s as simple as a different parent taking the child to daycare before work and completely forgetting to stop. A reminder that there is a back seat passenger could prevent these deaths in the future.
The bill is called the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act, or Hot Cars Act, and would require the U.S. Transportation Department to come up with a ruling on the issue. It would be up to the agency to determine what kind of alert systems automakers should install in their vehicles to remind parents that their kids are in the back seat.
Given the myriad new technologies on our cars that warn us of less dire things like forgetting to turn of the lights or leaving behind the car key, a backseat reminder is a reasonable idea. You can find a rear seat reminder on Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC vehicles already even without government intervention.
The rear seat reminder in those vehicles activates if the rear door is opened and closed within ten minutes of when the vehicle is started or while the vehicle is running. When the car is turned off, it sounds five chimes and displays a warning on the instrument cluster to check the back seat.
It seems like a quick and easy thing to add to every car. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is willing to review the legislation and provide feedback to help the process, but note that under the bill it will be a 20-year wait before the safety tech is in every car.
The best way to ensure you don’t leave your kids in the backseat by accident is to check every single time before you lock the car and walk away. If someone else takes your child to school or day care, double check that they were dropped off safely. It’s a few extra seconds of your time that could save your child’s life.