New technology aims to stop hot car deaths

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Image: (ABC News)

Image: (ABC News)

(ABC News) — This year, 17 children have already died before being left in hot cars. More than a thousand children have lost their lives since 1990. But a new technology on the market aims to prevent these tragedies.

The potentially life-saving innovation 2022 Genesis GV70 has an alarm that, according to the manufacturer, sounds as quickly as 10 seconds. Hidden inside the ceiling above the rear seat is a radar that Origin says a child can detect, even if the only movement is a soft breath.

Dr. Emily Thomas, an automotive safety engineer with Consumer Reports, shows ABC News how the child detection system works with her own 4-year-old son, Micah.

Thomas said, “You want something that’s more fine-tuned and able to detect even those little movements that we’re making just by being human, breathing and moving our chests.”

She instructed her son Micah to stay in her car seat as long as possible, start the car as if it was going away and then stop it as if it had reached its destination. Then she got down from the car, closed the door and locked it.

Even with Micah standing still and wearing a mask, the alarm went off in 20 seconds.

The system will also send a notification to the driver on their phone when the Genesis app is downloaded.

But it doesn’t come without drawbacks.

“The biggest drawback is that the system only works when the vehicle is locked,” Thomas said.

Other manufacturers, such as GM and Ford, have also unveiled the occupancy warning system, but it requires the rear door to be opened at some point during the journey to activate.

The infrastructure bill before Congress would make a hot car alert system mandatory in all new cars.

“That’s exactly what is needed to end these horrific and unimaginable tragedies,” Janet Fennell, founder and president of KidsandCars.Org, told ABC News. “Cars can now be made with a technology that is only $10 to $20 and it will save lives.”

Thomas explained that even if you don’t have a new car that has these systems, there are things you can do as a parent or caregiver to prevent these deaths.

“If I could tell parents and caregivers three things they can do right now, even without this kind of technology, it would be the first, create a routine where every single car Ride, even if your child isn’t with you, you check the back seat,” she said.

She recommends keeping one of your items in the back seat like a phone, wallet, or jacket—anything you need at the end of your trip.

“If you create that routine, you’re teaching your brain to always check the back, whether your baby is there or not,” Thomas said.

Secondly, she says, create a visual reminder of when your child is with you by placing a toy or pacifier in the front seat.

“We may think we don’t need it,” she explained. “But our brain works very efficiently and at a base level, it recognizes routines. It puts us in muscle memory mode. And we do what we’re going to do and we always do. So in the routine. Variations are often the case where these conditions occur.”

His last tip is to always keep your vehicle locked at home and keep your keys out of reach.

“It helps prevent that gained access scenario,” Thomas said. “And even if you don’t have kids, be a good neighbor, keep your vehicles locked and your keys out of reach. The kids in your neighborhood can get stuck inside your car.”

ABC News’ Sarah Messer contributed to this report.

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