In an attempt to reduce hot car deaths, Italy passed a law this month requiring all vehicles to have car seat alarms to detect when kids are left alone. The alarms are designed to alert drivers when a car is left unattended with a child in the back seat or in a car seat.
When a vehicle is equipped with such an alarm, an alert will sound or a visual reminder will let the driver know a child has been left in the car. Drivers in Italy will be fined anywhere from 88 to 333 Euros (about $97-370) if found leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. The law comes after rates have continued to rise for hot car deaths around the world.
How hot car deaths are being addressed in the U.S.
The U.S. is taking a number of measures to help prevent hot car deaths. Some automakers have already added features to vehicles to increase the safety of back seat riders; Hyundai, for example, offers Rear Occupant Alert on some models, which reminds drivers to check the backseat if the back door had been opened prior to driving. For up to 24 hours after the ignition is turned off, these cars will flash the headlights, honk the horn, and send a message to the driver’s phone if an occupant is detected inside the vehicle. Similarly, GM’s Rear Seat Reminder technology is available on many of their vehicles, and will become standard on all 2020 model year GM pickup trucks. However, measures such as these are not mandatory across the auto industry.
Together with KidsandCars.org, which is a national nonprofit advocacy and research organization seeking to eliminate injuries and deaths caused by children being left unattended in or near automobiles, State Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio recently introduced H.R. 3593, the Hot Cars Act of 2019. The bill would “require the Secretary of Transportation to issue a rule requiring all new passenger motor vehicles to be equipped with a child safety alert system,” a step in the right direction for children’s safety.
The Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers recently announced that the auto industry will have rear-seat reminder in cars and trucks by 2025, bringing the rest of the world up to speed with Italy.
What parents can do now
While waiting for the Hot Car Act to pass, there are some products on the market now to help reduce the chances of leaving a child in the car unattended.
The popular traffic and navigation app Waze can be set with a “child reminder” to help parents and caregivers remember to check their car for kids before getting out or locking it. The Kars 4 Kids Safety App and The Backseat App are two apps created specifically to prevent drivers from leaving little passengers in the car. Both can be set to alert you when you have a passenger in your vehicle.
Car seat manufacturers like Cybex and Evenflo have a carseat clips available to alert drivers of several different safety factors, like a rising temperature in the vehicle or a carseat coming unbuckled while the vehicle is in motion. Companies like Elepho make car alarms that will sound if a baby or young child is left in your car. Other technologies use low power radio frequency waves or motion sensors to keep drivers aware of unattended children. Starting in 2020, a new rear-view mirror clip using radar technology and artificial intelligence will be available, which claims to be 100% accurate.
Whether it’s safety legislation or updated car alarm systems, awareness and action are the best steps we can take to reduce hot car deaths. In this new era full of distractions, it’s more important than ever to focus on keeping our precious cargo safe.