According to the latest figures from the National Safety Council, thirty seven children die every year in the US as a result of being left in a hot car. Every one of these deaths is a tragedy, and every time a child dies, it prompts new debates on how it can be prevented from happening again the future. Although reminders and warnings to parents can be effective tools in reducing the number of fatalities, car manufacturers have been urged to make our cars safer in the hope that the issue can be eliminated altogether.
In response to this, car manufacturer Nissan have just announced new plans to introduce door alerts in eight of their vehicle models by next year. In a win for safety advocates, the plans will provide a notification to drivers if the rear door was opened before the trip, but not re-opened when the car is parked and the ignition switched off. There will be a display on the dashboard, as well as a discrete alarm.
The technology was designed by mechanical engineers Marlene Mendoza and Elsa Foley. Mendoza said in an interview: “We kept reading all these incidences of children accidentally left in cars and we were really worried.” They asked themselves: “Is there something we can do?” They began working on the idea in 2014. The company said in a statement that they also plan to introduce these alerts to more models by the year 2022, which includes all its four-door trucks, sedans and SUV models.
The move has been strongly welcomed by child safety advocates. But, while they are please that companies are now taking these steps, they say more needs to be done. Miles Harrison, of Purcellville, Virginia who is one of hundreds of parents to lose a child to heatstroke in a car, said: “I think all alert systems can be helpful. But alert systems alone will not work. It needs to be an alert system and a regular messaging system somehow. Because most people, myself included, can’t believe this can happen to them. It’s so unbelievable. You can’t walk in someone else’s shoes.”
The Heatstroke Awareness Challenge was created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year to raise more awareness of the issue. Heidi King, the Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said: “As temperatures around the country continue to rise, and summer schedules change routines, we recognize, tragically, that the heatstroke death toll is only going to climb. It’s up to everyone — parents, guardians, and even bystanders — to end these senseless and preventable tragedies.”
Although there’s no clear solution, the organisation hopes that by encouraging parents and caregivers to check their seats before locking their car and taking prompt action if they are left in the vehicle, some of these deaths can be prevented. Temperatures inside a vehicle can rocket by as much as 20 degrees in a matter of minutes. Children’s bodies overheat faster than adults, and during the summer months, it’s crucial they aren’t left alone for any amount of time.