While summer gears down for those of us in Colorado, it is still hot in many parts of the country and will remain so for several months. That’s why during this time of year, it’s more important than ever for parents to take notice of where their children are.
Sadly, children sometimes are accidentally left in a car when a parent goes to work or stops at a store. If that grave mistake is not noticed immediately, the outcome is usually very tragic. That’s why lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are completing legislation that would require automakers to integrate technology into vehicles that would warn adults that there’s a child in the backseat.
Heatstroke Claims Young Lives
According to news reports on KidsandCars.org, a website devoted to advocating for child safety, 29 children have died of heatstroke after being left in a vehicle so far this year. This is the most deaths reported as of the end of July since records began being kept.
That’s why proposed legislation being worked on in Congress is so important. Called Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (HOT CARS Act of 2016), it would require the secretary of transportation to issue a rule that mandates all new passenger vehicles come equipped with a child alert system. The alert system would mean vehicles would have some kind of vocal or visual signal or alert that would warn a driver if there is a passenger in the back seat once the vehicle is turned off.
There are also discussions about expanding the act to research the feasibility of requiring older vehicles to be retrofitted with the alert system within a year after the legislation is enacted.
Automakers Add Warning Systems
This year, General Motors (GM) introduced a warning feature in its 2017 GMC Acadia. The feature sounds a warning tone and displays a “Look in Rear Seat” message on the dashboard after the engine has stopped. The GM Acadia is not alone, according to Consumer Reports; this new warning system can also be found in some of GM’s Cadillac models, such as the Escalade, and in several Chevrolet vehicles, such as the Malibu and Silverado.
The warning system monitors whether any rear door of the vehicle has been opened and closed within 10 minutes of the vehicle starting or once the engine is running. If so, once the car is turned off, the alarm will go off reminding the driver to look in the back seat.
Child Heatstroke Deaths in Colorado
While Colorado is not known for excessive heat, there have been reported deaths of young children who have been left in a car. Data collected from 1998 to 2016 report that seven children died due to vehicular heatstroke. And, the colder weather that will arrive in just a few weeks can be just as dangerous as heat if a small child is accidentally left unattended.
If you don’t have a warning system, KidsandCars.org notes there are some simple things you as a driver can do to keep young backseat passengers safe.
- Put something that you need, such as a cell phone, a briefcase, or purse, in the backseat. That will make you have to open the back door when you get to your destination.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in a child’s car seat. When you place a child in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that a child is in the car.
- Have a strict drop-off and pick-up policy for children attending daycare or school. If your child doesn’t arrive at his/her normal time, have the daycare or school call you immediately.
These are just a few simple things you can do until it becomes law that all vehicles have a child safety warning system installed. As always, it is essential to protect children from injury in the event of an auto accident by securing them in properly installed car seats until they are big enough to use a seat belt. Information on car seats is available at the Parents Central website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.