All vehicles aimed at preventing children from dying in hot cars could soon be equipped with a warning system, but safety advocates say legislation working through Congress won’t be enough to save lives.
why it matters: About 40 children die from heatstroke every year because they are left in the back seat by a parent or caregiver – or driven inside a car on their own. Since 1990, nearly 1,000 children have died nationwide, according to KidsAndCars.org.
- Four people have died so far this month, including a baby who died in a car after shooting his mother in Orlando, Florida, and twins who died in a hot car in South Carolina. were killed in
running news: The bipartisan infrastructure bill, passed in the Senate last month, would require an alert system in new motor vehicles that would remind people to check the back seat when getting out of the car.
- The House is expected to consider the bill this month.
- replace the law a voluntary commitment To equip nearly every new car with a rear-seat reminder system by the 2025 model year by automakers.
Where does it stand: Many new models now come with such a reminder via a text message to the instrument cluster, usually accompanied by a chime when the engine is turned off.
- I recently drove a 2022 Nissan Pathfinder, I got angry six times whenever I drove away from the vehicle; I finally realized it was the rear-seat reminder.
- I repeatedly dismissed the warning on the steering wheel, but to turn it off permanently, I had to tinker with the car’s settings.
how it works: Most rear-seat reminders are triggered by “door logic”—that is, the system recognizes that the driver opened a rear door at the start of the trip.
yes but: That tech doesn’t know whether the driver opened the door to put groceries or a purse in the back seat — or to tie up a child.
- And that alone doesn’t address the issue of kids getting in the car – about 25% of all hot car deaths.
What do you want: Automotive safety engineer Emily A. Thomas at Consumer Reports says cars only need a dashboard reminder, which the driver can easily ignore or dismiss.
- They need technology that can actually detect the presence of a car rider.
- So far, only Korean models sold under the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands have ultrasonic sensors that can detect movement inside the vehicle – but they are not standard on all models.
- The new Genesis GV70 SUV goes a step further with a more sensitive radar sensor that is capable of detecting a baby’s breath.
What are they saying: KidsAndCars.org President Janet E. Carmakers can — and should — do more, Fennell said.
- “You can’t buy a vehicle today that doesn’t automatically turn off your headlights when you get out of the car. Who decided it was more important not to have a dead car battery than a dead child?”
what to watch: The occupant identification system that could prevent children from dying in hot cars works on the same technology that autonomous vehicles in the future will need to detect and monitor passengers, he said.