As summer slowly winds down, temperatures begin to drop to more tolerable levels. While the hottest month ever recorded just passed us by, the threat of children and pets dying of heat stroke in cars remains. Luckily, automakers have created new hot car death technology in order to prevent heat stroke tragedies.
Last year, an unprecedented 53 kids lost their lives from heatstroke due to being left in a hot vehicle for too long. Now, with being just beyond year’s midpoint, 32 children—over half the number of last year’s—have passed away in hot car incidents.
Car manufacturers have developed a new technology that can significantly reduce the number of young lives lost to vehicle-induced heat stroke. Some of Hyundai’s cars carry a rear occupant alert, a feature that blasts the car’s horn if someone is in the backseat after the driver has left. The horn is meant to be loud enough to not only alert the exited driver, but also people nearby.
As of now, this ultrasonic-motion sensor technology is only available in two of Hyundai’s most popular family cars. But last Wednesday, the company announced it would offer the technology in more of its SUVs.
Hyundai is also introducing a door-logic system technology, which will be standard beginning with its 2022 vehicles. Less aggressive than the ultrasonic-motion sensor, door-logic system technology will simply remind the driver to check the backseat if the rear door had been opened or closed prior to the car’s ignition.
Honda made a similar pledge last week. Nissan, General Motors, Subaru and Kia all apply a similar type of door-detection and backseat reminder technology. In addition to door logic sequencing, Kia also employs the same backseat detection technology Hyundai introduced the first to use as a means of prevention for hot car tragedies.
Aside from automakers, safety advocates and legislators are respectively mobilizing to address this issue. The national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, dedicated to “saving the lives of young children and pets in and around vehicles,” is currently pushing for the approval of the 2019 Hot Cars Act.
While the two Hot Cars Acts are under consideration by federal legislative committees, Amber Rollins, director of KidsAndCars.org, openly prefers the bill currently sitting in the House of Representatives. The House bill demands automakers incorporate technology that visually and audibly reminds drivers to check the backseat, as well as a system that detects the presence of anyone in the back. While the Senate bill calls for the former, it foregoes the latter—a request that Rollins simply deems as “not enough.”
While many parents believe they’re immune to accidentally leaving their child in a hot car, experts say the likelihood of such an occurrence is much higher than we’d like to believe, since everyone’s memory is indiscriminately “fallible.” The issue stems less from parents forgetting their kids are in the car with them, but more that “their memories falsely [lead] them to believe” they’ve already dropped their kids off “with their caregivers, when they did not.”
As we wait for hot car tragedy prevention technology to become more universal, experts recommend placing items you absolutely can’t leave behind in the backseat (e.g. a work laptop, a cell phone, or even a shoe.)
Mobile phone apps like Waze, Kars 4 Kids, and The Backseat App also offer features that remind drivers to check the back of their car before they leave the vehicle. Though in-vehicle, backseat detection technology won’t be standard for a while, using strategies to prevent tragic hot car incidents is vital.