Waze, the uber-popular navigation app originally developed in Israel that has taken the world by storm, is once again leading the pack, this time with a feature that reminds parents not to accidentally leave their child in the back seat of their vehicle.
With harried parents busier than ever as they shuttle their crew to school, camp, daycare and more, stories of children left behind in cars have continued to make headlines, often with tragic results. The latest horror story to hit the news involved 15-month-old Georgia twins who died after their father left them in their car seats on a hot summer day.
According to Kids And Cars, a foundation created to protect children from motor vehicle dangers on private property, an average of 37 children suffer heat-related deaths each year after becoming trapped inside a car. While some have gotten into the cars on their own, others have been accidentally left behind by their parents.
Waze rolled out the new Child Reminder feature on Thursday, August 4. Parents have to opt into the new feature, which was included in the app’s latest update for both Android and iOS phones. Ironically, the feature was made available to the public the same day that the Georgia twins, Ariel and Alaynah North, died.
The Child Reminder alert can be accessed through the General menu under Waze’s Settings. Once reminders are turned on, users can set a customizable message that will pop up at the end of every trip, or they can choose the app’s default message, which shows a pacifier-chomping baby Waze icon with the words “Child reminder. Check your car before you leave.”
Waze recommends using the app for both pets and children, both of which are extremely susceptible to heat stroke. Parents Magazine warns that temperatures can rise rapidly in a parked car whose windows are cracked open several inches during hot weather, hitting 109 degrees in just 15 minutes, the same amount of time it takes to run an errand. With children’s internal organs in danger of shutting down at body temperatures of 104 degrees, that errand can be the cause of brain damage, heat stroke or death.
“Time driving is usually spent planning next steps—what we’ll do when we reach our destination, what to make for dinner which route to take,” noted Waze on its official blog. “We hope this feature serves as a reminder to be present and remember any little ones who cannot speak up when it’s time to get out of the car.”
A similar safety app was released by Oorah’s Kars 4 Kids called Kars4Kids Safety. Available for Android phones only, the app utilizes Bluetooth on the user’s car and smartphone to sound a customized alarm reminding drivers not to leave anyone behind when exiting their vehicles. A YouTube video released by Kars 4 Kids last summer shows a volunteer setting up a “Hot Kar Challenge,” offering participants $100 if they can last 10 minutes inside a closed car during the summer. All of the participants in the video, which has garnered over 2.9 million views, failed to complete the challenge, pressing the panic button as they were overcome by the intense heat.
Others have also begun creating systems that will prompt parents to check their back seat before walking away from their vehicle. General Motors recently announced a Rear Seat Reminder feature in the 2017 GMC Acadia that, if activated, would sound an alert and illuminate a dashboard message reminding drivers to check for rear seat passengers.
Of course, there are plenty of low-tech ways to make sure that children don’t get left behind. Parents can try leaving an item they will need in the backseat, like a shoe or a pocketbook, in the backseat near their child, or placing an object belonging to their child in the front seat as a visual reminder of their precious rear-seat cargo. Moving a child’s car seat to the middle of the back seat can also be helpful, because every glance in the rear view mirror provides a glimpse of the back-seat passenger. Finally, parents are advised to get in the habit of always checking their back seat before leaving their cars, a simple but effective way to prevent the unthinkable from happening.
By Sandy Eller