Technologies aimed at preventing hot car deaths may have reliability shortcomings that give parents and caregivers a false sense of security. Heatstroke resulting from getting left in hot cars claimed the lives of 52 children in 2019 alone.

When temperatures rise outside, it becomes even hotter inside parked vehicles. Within 10 to 15 minutes, for example, the temperature in a car may increase from 80 degrees to 130 degrees when the temperature outside is 90 degrees. Infants and young children have less ability to regulate their temperatures, which may result in their core body temperatures reaching extreme levels and causing heatstroke.

The Causes of Hot Car Wrongful Deaths

Several factors contribute to parents and caregivers forgetting children in the vehicle. Particularly when fatigued, people may go on a sort of autopilot, completing tasks and routines out of habit more than direct thought. Consequently, some tasks may slip through the cracks and get forgotten. Other hot car deaths occur when people change their routines, such as keeping a child home from daycare or switching which parent is responsible for the day’s drop off. Between 1998 and 2019, 54.2% of hot car deaths occurred because a caregiver forgot the child in the car. In some cases, small children may crawl into parked vehicles and become stuck without parents ever knowing they were in the cars. Noheatstroke.com reports that 25.2% of fatal vehicular heatstroke cases occurring between 1998 and 2019 resulted from children accessing vehicles on their own.

Hot Car Death Prevention

Parents may take several steps and use various techniques to help them avoid forgetting their children in the car. Some of the simplest prevention methods parents may employ include leaving something vital to their daily routines, such as a cellphone, ID badge, computer or even their left shoes, next to their children in the rear of their vehicles. Keeping something they need behind may help ensure they have to check the area before exiting the vehicle, and therefore, may aid in keeping them from accidentally forgetting their child in the car. Additionally, it may help if people keep a stuffed animal in their children’s car seats. When the baby is in the seat, putting the animal in the front passenger seat may serve as a valuable reminder that a child is in the car. Parents and caregivers may also make a habit of always checking the backseat when they exit their vehicles, even if they think they do not have their children with them.

In addition to these methods, parents may also take advantage of the various hot car death prevention devices on the market. Car seat sensors, in-vehicle technologies, and app-based reminders may provide valuable assistance in preventing fatal vehicular heatstroke. These technologies, however, are not infallible and may still allow hot car death accidents to happen.

Car Seat Sensors

Included by the car seat manufacturers or added aftermarket, car seat sensors provide the most reliable prevention assistance. Placed under the seat’s padding or integrated into the seat fasteners, car seat sensors may connect to the vehicle’s diagnostic port or to an app, which communicates to drivers whether a child remains in the seat after turning the vehicle off. Unlike other technologies, car seat sensors may alert drivers a child is in the seat each time they stop and turn off their cars.

In-Vehicle Technologies

Some vehicles come equipped with rear seat reminder systems or offer them as an option; however, these systems have shortcomings that may still allow a child to get left in the car and potentially suffer vehicular heatstroke. These systems, such as the one available in some General Motor’s cars, use sensors on the back doors and provide audible reminders and dashboard notifications when drivers reach their destination. Should the driver stop and not open the back door, such as to get gas before heading on to work, the vehicle may provide no reminder upon reaching the destination.

Cellphone Apps

App-based alerts may provide helpful reminders to check the back seat, but they may still lack the overall reliability necessary to prevent hot car deaths from occurring. Such apps may activate by opening them up or when people’s vehicles reach certain speeds and provide alerts to check the backseat when people reach their final stops. Like in-vehicle technologies, these apps often only provide alerts at the destination, not during impromptu stops. Additionally, parents must remember to charge their cellphones to use such apps and receive their alerts.