Car company Nissan said Tuesday that a back-seat alert will feature in more of its vehicles rolling out over the coming years in an effort to prevent child deaths after being left in hot cars.
Already this year, 29 children have died of heat stroke after being left inside vehicles, according to the nonprofit KidsAndCars.org.
An average of 37 children die each year after being left in hot cars. KidsAndCars.org said that with record high temperatures across the country, 2018 could surpass this number.
Oftentimes these preventable deaths are the result of a parent or guardian forgetting that the child is in the back seat. The inside of a car can heat up to fatal temperatures in less than two hours.
Nissan’s “rear door alert” is already in its 2018 Pathfinder and uses the horn, back-door sensors and a dashboard text alert to notify drivers to check if they left anything in the back seat.
The technology works by sensing if the rear door of the car was opened before a trip begins. When the driver reaches a destination, if they don’t open the back door when the car is parked and turned off, a series of distinctive honks goes off to alert the driver walking away.
The alarm was developed by Nissan engineers Marlene Mendoza and Elsa Foley. Ms. Mendoza was inspired after leaving a dish of lasagna in her back seat and, pregnant at the time, was struck with the idea of if she had left much more precious cargo in the car.
“If you open a rear door and put something in the rear seat, Rear Door Alert will help you remember when you get to your destination that you may have forgotten it,” Ms. Mendoza said in a statement. “By drawing attention back to the vehicle while the driver is walking away, the honking alerts you to recheck the back seat in addition to visual or interior audible alerts.”
A similar technology is also available in General Motors cars and Hyundai has announced similar plans.
KidsAndCars.org, along with other advocacy organizations, is pushing for back-seat alerts to be mandatory in all vehicles with the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats (HOT CARS) Act of 2017. Such legislation has also shaped how car makers approach seatbelt, airbags and inside trunk latches for driver and passenger safety.
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