2018 was the worst year in history for kids being left in hot cars—and as much as we think it could never happen, it does.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and when temperatures soar as high as they are this summer, it's necessary that we get little ones out of the backseat as soon as possible.
But parents are only human, and as much as we think we could never forget our babies in the car, it does happen. Research suggests high temperatures don't help, as heat stress can impact our cognitive function.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 2018 was the worst year in history for kids being left in hot cars. The NSC, other safety advocacy organizations and lawmakers are encouraging auto makers to embrace technology to create backseat alert systems in new vehicles, but such systems aren't standard yet.
Luckily, there are several innovative car seat apps and products parents can use to remind them when there's a little one in the backseat—and you might already have one of them installed.
Here are 5 car seat apps that lessen the risk of leaving little ones behind:
If you use Waze to help you beat traffic, you can set it up to remind you to empty the backseat when you reach your destination. Simply turn on the "Child Reminder" feature in your settings to start getting the notifications. It even allows you to add a custom message, so you can write a sweet note about your baby.
2. Kars 4 Kids Safety App
Kars 4 Kids
If you're not a Waze fan but are an Android user, you can try the Kars 4 Kids Safety App on Google Play. It connects to your car's Bluetooth so that when you (and your phone) leave the car, an alarm goes off. You can add your child's photo to fully customize your reminder.
3. The Backseat App
The Backseat App is available on iPhones and Android, and because it doesn't rely on Bluetooth, it's useful to parents who are driving vehicles that don't have that technology on board.
Developed by an Arizona father, this app can be used not only in the U.S., but in Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, New Zealand and the U.K. Using GPS, it reminds the driver to check the backseat when the car is parked, and if the driver doesn't turn off the alerts to their phone, the app sends a messages to three pre-determined contacts. The message will let them know that there's a possibility that a child's been left in a hot car via email and text message and send the location of your vehicle, along with your car's identifying characteristics.
4. Built-in Car Seat Alarms
Car seat manufacturers, like Evenflo and Cybex, offer built in alarm functions thanks to innovative chest clips that don't just protect kids in the event of an accident, but also if they're accidentally left in the vehicle.
Motherly loves the Cybex Sirona M SensorSafe Convertible Car Seat, as it's "the smartest convertible car seat we've ever tried." The chest clip that alerts parents when: the car is too hot (or cold), if the child has been in the car seat longer than recommended, if they've managed to unclip it while the car is moving, or if a child is left behind in the backseat—for example, if the car is turned off or the driver's cell phone has left the vehicle, but the kid is still clipped in. If the driver doesn't respond to an alert about a child left behind, emergency contacts are alerted.
5. Bee-Alert Child Auto Alarm
If you've already got a car seat and aren't keen on apps (or if your child has caregivers who aren't) the Bee-Safe Child Auto Alarm is a low-cost car reminder system ($29.99 on Amazon) that alerts drivers to the possibility of children both in the back seat and behind the vehicle. If your kiddo rides with someone who does not use a smartphone, this innovative alarm is a good bet.
No matter what you choose, having back up while driving the kids around in the heat is a a cool invention. And these innovative apps and products are likely just the beginning of a wave of designs dedicated to helping parents remember who is in the backseat.
According to Arizona State University associate professor of psychology Gene Brewer, "memory failures are remarkably powerful, and they happen to everyone." He continues, "there is no difference between gender, class, personality, race or other traits. Functionally, there isn't much of a difference between forgetting your keys and forgetting your child in the car."
Parents shouldn't feel guilty about being human, but if there are apps and products that can help reduce the risk, they're worth checking out.
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[A version of this post was originally published July 6, 2018. It has been updated.]