Automakers develop new alarms meant to prevent deaths in hot cars

DEARBORN, Mich.  This month, a Florida sheriff’s deputy’s body camera showed the moment after a woman rescued a child from a hot car. You can see her consoling the child’s mother, who told police she thought she had dropped her son off at her father’s house.

But other families aren’t as fortunate. So far this year 29 children have died in hot cars, and automakers are taking action to try and prevent more. On average, 37 a year are killed. Last year, 43 died.

To try to reduce that number, Nissan is announcing it will make a horn-honking back seat alarm standard in all new 4-door vehicles by 2022. The car will alert a driver when they switch off the ignition if the back door has been opened during the current trip.

GM also offers a back seat alert system in 29 models.

Marlene Mendoza, a mother of three, was one of the Nissan engineers who designed the alarm.

“If it helps one person, it’ll make a difference. It’s just so good to now that this is a feature that will be there for you if you ever need it,” Mendoza said.

Deborah Hersman, who runs the National Safety Council and is the former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, welcomes the safety change.

“Amazingly, 25 percent of these fatalities actually occur in workplace parking lots, and so that’s really telling us that parents may be out of their normal routine,” Hersman said.

The Nissan system is in the new Pathfinder. Small children’s body temperature can rise four times faster than an adult which makes them especially vulnerable, considering in the sun the temperature inside a car can jump nearly 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.

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