Nearly 40 children needlessly die every year after being left in a vehicle on a hot day.
Now, the automotive industry is responding with safety technology designed to protect our most precious cargo.
Nissan plans to release new technology that the company believes will reduce the threat of leaving children unattended in a hot car or truck and the number of injuries associated with it.
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Nissan’s Rear Seat Alert, developed by Elsa Foley and Marlene Mendoza, both engineers and mothers, senses if something, like a child, has been inadvertently left behind.
How does it work? Nissan’s Rear Seat Alert utilizes the car’s door sequence logic, the instrument panel message display and its industry-first multiple horn honks as a reminder to check the back seat when turning off and getting out of the car after it’s parked. Nissan says the new feature will debut in September as standard equipment on the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder SUV, and will be available on other Nissan models in the coming years.
"The idea is if you open a rear door, whether to put a child or a package in the rear seat, the vehicle will help alert you when you get to your destination that you may want to check the rear seat," Mendoza said. "We've built in enough time that you don't have to rush, but if you don't open the rear door again when you get out of the vehicle, we want you to think for a moment about what you may have put in the back seat."
As a long-time national auto safety expert, Byron Bloch commended Nissan for introducing this Rear Seat Safety Alert feature in the 2018 Pathfinder, calling it a positive step forward in addressing a safety need the auto industry has been aware of for almost 20 years.
“The tragic deaths of small children who are inadvertently left behind inside a vehicle on a hot day, when the car's interior temperature can rapidly rise to over a lethal 120 degrees, should have been a priority item for all automakers to solve,” Bloch said.
Bloch said he also commends the three congressional representatives who introduced the Hot Cars Act of 2017 in June, as well as General Motors for introducing a reminder system in its company’s new GMC Acadia SUV “as finally a first implementation following their initial promises back in 2000 to tackle this heatstroke hazard for small children.”
It’s not just leaving a child behind in a hot car that’s a concern, according to Bloch. Similar situations have also occurred when small children manage to get inside a vehicle’s trunk to play or hide. With that, automakers have been required to include truck escape mechanisms a child can see and operate even when inside the dark trunk.
“Since 2001, NHTSA has required a car's trunk to have a visible easily-operable release mechanism, as described in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 401. There should have long ago been a similar mandate (a FMVSS safety standard) for the safety problem of children inadvertently left in the vehicle's interior on a hot day.”