Rear Seat Reminder Flaws: What You Need to Know
A child dies in a hot car about every nine days, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s easy to think that you could never forget about your child in the back seat, but it’s happened to all types of parents, including a hospital CEO. Research by neuroscientists has shown that it can happen to anyone given the right circumstances. Vehicle manufacturers are hoping to help solve the problem with rear seat reminders.
A child can die of heatstroke when left in a hot car for even a few minutes. Children can overheat three to five times faster than adults, partly because they have less surface area for sweat to form and evaporate. Another contributing factor is that many people don’t understand how quickly a car can overheat to deadly temperatures.
Even on mild days, the temperature inside a car can rise to dangerous levels. When the temperature is only 61°F outside, the inside of a car can heat up to 105°F in an hour, a level hot enough to be fatal to a child.
Rear Seat Reminder Systems
Many auto manufacturers have already started incorporating rear seat reminder technology into cars, and automakers have committed to putting auditory and visual reminders in nearly all cars by 2025. Some vehicles will have a routine reminder to check the back seat, while others will have a sensor that detects if someone is in the back seat.
There’s no one standard type of rear seat reminder technology. Some of the different types of reminders include:
The simplest type of system will issue a screen prompt or audio reminder to check the back seat before leaving the vehicle.
Some cars use detectors to note if the rear door is opened before driving. If the rear doors aren’t opened after the car is parked, the car will issue an alert and flash a reminder to check the back seat for occupants.
Currently, the most sophisticated systems use motion detectors to sense movement in the rear seat for up to 24 hours after the car is parked. If any motion is detected, an alarm is sent to the driver’s phone.
Rear Seat Reminder Flaws
Although rear seat reminder systems can play an important role in reducing hot car deaths of children and pets, they aren’t enough on their own. Here are some shortcomings of common rear seat reminder systems:
One of the main reasons parents leave their children in hot cars is because they’re unconsciously following a predictable routine and forget to drop their child off at daycare because it’s not part of that routine. A parent who is used to ignoring or turning off an alarm because they don’t usually have their child with them may continue to ignore the reminder because they forgot their child was in the back seat.
It’s hard to forget a child who is actively moving, crying, or talking. In most cases, when a child is left in a car, it’s because the child fell asleep during the drive. A child who is sleeping may not move enough to set off a motion detector.
Caring parents can’t imagine they’d ever forget their child. If rear seat reminder systems have to be activated to work, many parents may not turn them on because they don’t think it could ever happen to them.
Preventing Hot Car Deaths
In addition to rear seat reminder systems, here are some more steps you can take to ensure you never forget your child or pet in the back seat:
Accept that you could forget
If you don’t think you could ever forget your child, you won’t take measures to prevent it. Your memory system is designed to perform routine tasks on autopilot. Parents don’t leave their children in a hot car because they’re neglectful. They do it because their automatic memory system kicked in and took over.
If you’re taking your child to daycare at a different time than usual, set an alarm on your phone for when you expect to arrive at work. You can also ask your child’s caregiver to call you if they don’t show up at their normal time. Make sure they have your cell and work phone so they can reach you instead of leaving a message.
Use physical cues
Put something you’ll need in the back seat beside your child, like your purse, phone, or briefcase. If you do forget to drop your child off, you’ll remember when you get to work and need your phone.
Use a reminder sign at work
By placing a reminder sign from BabySav on the door to your work building, you’ll not only help yourself remember but help other people as well. A public reminder can reach more people than most other solutions. It also has the benefit of not needing activation or maintenance. BabySav is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the number of children and pets who die from heatstroke in hot cars.