The idea of accidentally leaving a baby in the back of a car is impossible for most parents to fathom. There’s simply no way a parent could be so distracted, even in the age of smartphones, that they could forget their own child ⏤ or so goes the thinking. Yet every year, parents do. Many parents. Last year, 42 kids died of heatstroke after being forgotten in a vehicle. Two babies have already died this year ⏤ one in Florida, the other in South Carolina ⏤ and it’s only April.
And while the problem has led members of Congress to propose legislation, tech startups to invent hot-car alarms, and automakers to build in dashboard alerts, car-seat manufacturers have been slow to add warning sensors to their products. Until this year, Evenflo was the only company to do so, having rolled out its SensorSafe chest clip in 2015. Now, UK-based CYBEX joins the club with its new Sirona M convertible car seat.
Admittedly, the Sirona ⏤ which won the Best in Show Award at this year’s JPMA Baby Show ⏤ uses the same basic SensorSafe chest clip found in Evenflo seats (both companies are owned by the same conglomerate), but it’s been tailored specifically for CYBEX. The clip syncs to both a parent’s smartphone and a wireless receiver that plugs into the car’s onboard diagnostic port ⏤ generally where a mechanic would go to see why the check-engine light is on. By plugging in here, the SensorSafe knows exactly when the engine has been cut. Assuming the chest clip is fastened, a series of tones will chime to remind the parent that a child is buckled in the car seat, much the way the car alerts drivers when they leave the headlights on.
If a parent somehow didn’t hear the chimes and exited the vehicle sans baby, the device would send a notification to their phone app. From there, the final line of defense is an alert to a designated emergency contact accompanied by GPS coordinates of the vehicle’s last known position. It covers all the bases. In addition, the chest clip provides three additional alerts: It sends notifications to the app “if a child unbuckles themselves while the vehicle is in motion; if the back seat has become too warm or too cold; and if a child has been seated for too long.”
In terms of the actual seat, the Sirona is designed for use from birth (it includes a removable newborn inlay) to 65 pounds, or around 4 years old. It can be positioned both rear- (5 lbs to 65lbs) or forward-facing (22 to 65 lbs), and features one-hand adjustable recline with 10 positions, handy magnetic buckle holders, a dual level indicator, 12-position height-adjustable headrest, and, of course, a cupholder.
Cooler still is a feature not found on a lot of car seats: adjustable linear side-impact protection. Regardless of which way the seat is facing, parents can eject the collision protector on the side of the seat closest to the door (it pops in and out at the push of a button). When extended, the seat reportedly absorbs up to 25 percent more impact forces in an accident. It’s cool to see in action in the video.
The Sirona debuted at last fall’s ABC Expo in Las Vegas and hit stores in January. It runs $330 and is available either online or at Buy Buy Baby.