It’s one of a parent’s worst nightmares: Forgetting a child in the back seat of a car. What can be done to minimize the chance of this deadly phenomenon?

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and it happens more often than you might think.

During the summer months, a heartbreaking scenario plays itself out more often than you might think: A parent buckles his or her child in a car seat and heads out for the day. Instead of dropping the child off for daycare or taking the child into a store, the parent unintentionally leaves the child in the car, where he or she suffers heat stress or heatstroke. It has happened enough that there’s a name for it: Forgotten Baby Syndrome.

Last year in the United States, more than a dozen children died after being left in a hot car. You may think that it’s incomprehensible that someone could do this, but according to Kate Carr, president and CEO of the advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide, the problem is real. Since the late 1990s, there have been nearly 700 incidents of children dying inside hot vehicles.

Technological Solutions

There’s some positive news regarding this issue, though. Last year, the HOT CARS Act of 2016 was introduced in the House of Representatives. If the legislation passes, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will issue a final rule to require alert technology, which will notify a driver that a child or unattended passenger remains in the vehicle after the motor is turned off.

In the meantime, warning devices and technology already are available to alert you if you’ve accidentally left a child in the car. Here are a few examples of what is currently on the market:

  • ADVANCED SensorSafe™ Embrace DLX Infant Car Seat: SensorSafe Technology includes a wireless receiver and a smart chest clip. Using the vehicle’s OBD port, a wireless receiver that communicates with the smart chest clip is plugged into the car. Together, the system makes a beeping sound to alert the driver that a child has been left in the car. The clip can also alert the driver if the child becomes unbuckled in the car seat.
  • The ChildMinder® Elite Pad System requires a parent to place an Elite Pad between or under the cushions of a child safety seat. Once the child is in the safety seat, the Elite Pad System passively monitors the child. A key ring alarm is activated when the child is seated, and an alarm sounds 6 seconds after a parent or caregiver walks more than 15 feet from a vehicle when the child remains in its child safety seat.

There also are safety devices that focus on younger children who can get into cars by themselves without a parent even realizing it.

If you’re in the market for a new car, General Motors introduced a new feature in its 2017 and 2018 Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC models called Rear Seat Reminder. The feature monitors rear door usage to remind drivers to check their rear seats before walking away from their vehicles.

You may think you could never leave your child in the car, but every year there are a dozen parents who, sadly, thought the same thing. So, as we approach the summer months, now is the time for parents of small children to look at car safety features.

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