Between playdates, swim lessons, and all those summer day trips, you're probably going to spend a lot of time driving your kids around over the next few months. Unfortunately, all that time in the car can be dangerous. Sadly, just this year, a dozen children have already died from being left in a vehicle—nearly triple the number from this time last year, reports CNN—the latest coming just this past weekend, when a 6-month-old baby boy died in Des Moines.
The fact is, it takes only 15 minutes for a car left parked in 80 degree weather to reach 130 degrees inside.
I know you've heard this before. The problem is, everyone always thinks that it won't happen to them. We talked to several families who tragically lost a little one this way for our feature, "You'd Never Forget Your Child in the Car, Right?" in 2014. Sometimes, accidents just happen.
But one mom and one car manufacturer are working to help prevent these tragic accidents. Tricia Morrow, a global safety strategy engineer for GMC, worked on the new 2017 GMC Acadia, which, it was just announced today, offers a new feature called the Rear Seat Reminder. It works by monitoring the rear doors—if one of them is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the car starts or while the vehicle is running, a chime will sound and a message will pop up, reminding you to check the back after you turn the car off.
"As a mother of two young daughters, it is one of my worst fears, as I am sure it is for so many parents, that harm would come to my children," says Morrow. "Our team felt that we needed to do something quickly with the hope of preventing some of these tragedies. This simple solution won't detect a child in the vehicle, but even if it only saves one child's life, it will be totally worth it."
No matter what car you drive, Morrow recommends never leaving your child alone in it, not even for a minute. You should also make sure to lock the doors and keep the keys out of reach, as about 30 percent of heatstroke deaths are due to children who gain access to an unattended vehicle.
As we reported in our 2014 story, KidsandCars.org recommends taking the following steps:
Other companies have been inventing ways to help prevent this kind of tragedy, too. Evenflo has been developing a technology called SensorSafe for its car seats, and Parents recently covered Driver's Little Helper, a device that slips into your kid's carseat and can alert you on your smartphone if there are any dangerous conditions. Here's hoping that more companies will join the efforts to protect our little ones. Until then, we all need to remain hyper-vigilant.