Can technology help prevent deaths of children in hot cars?

Hot car deaths can happen any month of the year but July has been the most dangerous.
Hot car deaths can happen any month of the year but July has been the most dangerous. (Jann Null, https://noheatstroke.org/)

Safety advocates hope new technology will help prevent one of the most tragic accidents -- a child’s death inside a hot car.

According to Kidsandcars.org, 24 children died in hot cars last year in the United States. Three of those deaths happened in Florida:

  • May 26, 2020: 10-month old in Clewiston
  • Sept. 2, 2020: Infant in Panama City
  • Sept. 11, 2020: 1-year-old in Pine Hills

“Children’s bodies can’t efficiently regulate their temperature, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, their bodies can heat up three to five times faster than adults,” warned Emily Thomas with Consumer Reports.

Simply put, it’s never safe to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even if it doesn’t feel particularly warm, you’re parked in the shade or you’ve cracked a window.

Consumer Reports: Preventing hot car deaths
Consumer Reports: Preventing hot car deaths

Consumer Reports said soon new technology could remind parents if they leave behind a child or pet in the car. Federal regulators cleared the way for car manufacturers to install highly sensitive in-car radar systems that can monitor for children left in the car and alert the driver to take action.

“This new technology has the potential to save lives by not just reminding parents to check the backseat, but actually detecting an occupant. But it will be a long time before we see it in every car. So, it’s important to remain vigilant about the ongoing danger of children and pets dying in hot cars,” Thomas explained.

Some cars are already equipped with systems that can remind drivers to check the backseat, but those systems don’t account for every scenario, which is why it’s important for parents to always remember to check the backseat.

“You should create a habit of putting a personal item, like your phone or laptop bag, in the back seat, even if your child is not with you. Doing this will force you to visit the backseat after every trip,” Thomas said.

It can also help to put one of your child’s items in the front seat, like their backpack or jacket. Set up an agreement with daycares or preschools to give you a call if your child doesn’t arrive on a day they’re expected to.

Even though you may be driving less these days, these tragedies can still happen to kids who get into cars on their own, so, even if you don’t have kids, it’s important to always keep your vehicles locked and keys out of reach.

Consumer Reports says, if you see a child in a locked car, call 911 to get them out immediately.

RELATED FROM CONSUMER REPORTS: Hot car fatalities are a year-round threat | Anyone could forget a child in a hot car