Every year kids are 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 and 2019 were the worst years in history for kids being left in hot cars. (2020 saw a reduction, but could likely be tied to a decrease in driving due to the pandemic.) 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 sensor apps and car seat alarms 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 sensor 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.
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.
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.
If you've already got a car seat and aren't keen on apps (or if your child has caregivers who aren't) the Steelmate Baby Car Seat Reminder is a low-cost car reminder system ($37.99 on Amazon) that alerts drivers to the possibility of children in the back seat. 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 backup while driving the kids around in the heat is 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.]