This Mom's Invention Could Help Prevent Hot-Car Deaths

GMC's new Rear Seat Reminder is a step in the right direction.
Coutresy of Tricia Morrow

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.

Courtesy of GMC

"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:

  1. Be extra alert if your routine changes. That's when the risk of unintentionally leaving your child in your car increases.
  2. Put something of your child's, like a toy, on the front seat.
  3. Leave an item you'll need at your next destination in the backseat -- like your cell phone, purse, or briefcase.
  4. Place your child's car sear in the middle of the backseat rather than behind the driver. It's easier to see the kid.
  5. It's crucial to set up a system with your child-care provider, as the parents in this story can attest. If you don't plan to drop off your child that day, call her. If the child doesn't arrive as expected, have the caregiver call you.
  6. Discuss the topic of hot-car deaths with every person who drives your child anywhere. This includes partners, grandparents, and babysitters.
  7. Always "Look Before You Lock." Get in the habit of checking the backseat every time you get out of the car.

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.

Chrisanne Grise is the assistant health editor at Parents. She does not have children, but she is "mom" to a corgi named Murray. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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