Children dying after being left in hot vehicles have become a sad reality. As of October 5, 49 children have died in the United States as a result of vehicular heatstroke, according to Kids and Cars. While this number has exceeded the average number of 38 deaths a year, it's not as high as 2018 which saw the most hot-car related deaths in children with 54 reported deaths.
Despite awareness campaigns and national outrage, the deaths continue to happen, so last month the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers announced a new plan that will hopefully help prevent these tragic deaths. In a press release last month the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers announced a voluntary commitment to add rear-seat reminder systems to new vehicles by auto manufacturers.
While there were no specific details about the reminders, it stated that "At a minimum, these prompts will include a combination of auditory and visual alerts that will activate after a driver turns off the vehicle." They are hoping that all cars and trucks will have the rear seat reminder feature by 2025, if not sooner.
“Automakers have been exploring ways to address this safety issue and this commitment underscores how such innovations and increased awareness can help children right now,” said Alliance Interim President and CEO David Schwietert. “Automakers have come together to develop a pathway forward, which not only incorporates existing systems but also supports new, innovative approaches.”
Major automakers have voluntarily committed to put #lifesaving rear-seat reminder systems into their vehicles to help combat pediatric vehicular heatstroke: https://t.co/Q0aXAc5QPZ #NationalBabySafetyMonth #SafetyFirst #CheckForBaby— Global Automakers (@GloblAutomkrs) September 4, 2019
“Children die each year from heatstroke suffered when left unattended in the back seat of passenger vehicles," said John Bozzella, President and CEO of Global Automakers. "As most of these deaths are caused by children being unintentionally left in vehicles, our members are taking action to help prevent these tragic losses by adding rear-seat reminder systems to prompt parents and caregivers to check the back seat before exiting their car.”
The National Safety Council is happy to hear of the voluntary commitment but in a statement commented that automakers need to move quickly. “Automakers took a step in the right direction Wednesday, adding another layer of protection against these tragedies,” the council said in a statement. “Automakers should move fast on their commitment and continue to collaborate on additional protections that can be provided to all our drivers.”
Thanks to @GloblAutomkrs and @auto_alliance for reaching a voluntary commitment to save the lives of our youngest passengers: https://t.co/5N3vkKKSeV. It is a step in the right direction to end #hotcar deaths. Learn more at https://t.co/p2TApQ1D17. #LookBeforeYouLock pic.twitter.com/fxExxKa7U1— NSC (@NSCsafety) September 4, 2019
While many are praising the initiative, some are more critical, including Kids and Cars who stated that nearly one-third of hot car-related deaths are a result of children gaining access to vehicles instead of being forgetting in them. Since the program is voluntary, there is also no way to hold carmakers accountable.
“While the public waits for these systems to be offered as standard equipment at the pace determined by the manufacturers, families continue burying children week after week after week,” the organization said.
Still many are applauding the move and are hoping these new systems help reduce the number of children who are dying as a result of vehicular heatstroke.