Every year an average of 37 children die trapped in hot cars, seemingly forgotten by a distracted parent. In an effort to prevent such tragedies. U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio recently introduced the HOT CARS (Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats) Act of 2017. If signed into law, the bill would require all vehicles to be equipped with an alarm system that notifies the driver if a passenger remains in the back seat when the car is turned off. As Ryan, himself a father of three, points out: not only does the technology already exist to prevent these senseless deaths, but it’s already built-in to cars ⏤ for things like open doors and unfastened seat belts. Not for babies left in the back seat. That can easily be remedied.
But just because the technology hasn’t been mandated in cars, doesn’t mean it’s not available to parents. A number of startups have taken it upon themselves to develop stand-alone “hot car” devices to alert harried parents that they just ran into the dry cleaner without their kid. Most either fit under the car-seat cushion and detect weight ⏤ similar to a baby motion monitor under a crib ⏤ or clip onto the shoulder harness. Almost all sync with either a smartphone of keychain fob and sound an alarm or send an alert message when the driver walks too far away from the vehicle without the baby. In some cases, the device/app will also start calling emergency contacts if there’s no reply. They run between $50 and $100. Here are eight that are currently on the market or soon to hit it.
Baby Alert International’s ChildMinder SoftClip is a digital shoulder harness clip that replaces the one that comes with the carseat. It syncs to either a smartphone app or a key fob and sounds an alarm eight seconds after you walk more than 15 feet from the car/kid. It’s spill-proof, crash-tested, and is reportedly easy to remove with one hand in case of an accident.
Sense A Life
Only available for pre-order, Sense A Life is a wireless car-seat alarm that reminds parents four different times that there’s a kid sitting in the back. First, as soon as they open the car door, a loud voice over the built-in speaker says: “Occupant detected in car seat. Please remove child from the seat.” Second, a tri-color LED flashes to attract their attention. Third, it sends a mobile alert to their smartphone if they walk away. And if all of that fails, it sends an automatic alert to a pre-programmed emergency contact with your GPS location. A weight-based sensor, Sense A Life is a little different technologically from others in that it uses pressure and optical sensors to know both when the car seat’s occupied and the driver door opens. It can easily be swapped between vehicles, and the batteries reportedly last three months between charges.
Kars 4 Kids Safety App
Created by that charity with the catchy jingle aimed at convincing you to donate your car, this free safety app doesn’t come with an accompanying device. In fact, you don’t even need a kid (or car seat) for it to work. It requires your car have Bluetooth and sounds a customizable “don’t-forget-your-kid” alarm every time the engine goes off and the phone disconnects from the car. Simple as that. It easily turns off when you’re not driving your baby, too ⏤ or you can leave it on so you don’t forget the groceries in the back seat.
Evenflo Advanced Embrace DLX Infant Car Seat with SensorSafe
One of the few actual car seats on the market with a built-in sensor, Evenflo’s Embrace is designed for babies up to 12 months (35 lbs.) and uses slightly different technology than the other devices. While the shoulder harness clip is similar to the ChildMinder, the Evenflo comes with a wireless receiver that plugs into the car’s on-board diagnostic port ⏤ generally where a mechanic would go to see why the check engine light is on. By plugging in here, the SensorSafe™ knows for sure when the engine has been cut, at which point a “series of tones will chime to remind you that your child is buckled in their car seat.” So, instead of trying to catch you as you walk away, it’s similar to when you leave the headlights on. Plus, remember, it’s also a full carseat.
Sunshine Baby iRemind Car Seat Alarm
The Sunshine Baby iRemind is a soft, sensing pad that looks like a bear and fits under the padded car-seat cushion. It stands somewhat apart in that it reportedly can detect a mere pound of weight, while the others require four to five pounds to register. It beeps immediately upon putting the baby in, so that you know it’s activated, and it syncs to either a smartphone app or key fob. Both will emit an audible alarm if you walk more than 15 feet away from the vehicle.
2017 GMC Acadia
The new GMC Acadia mid-size SUV may be the only car on the road with built-in Rear Seat Reminder technology, an integrated alert system similar to a headlight or trunk open alarm — the same type of technology the Hot Cars Act of 2017 is trying to legislate all automakers include in their vehicles. While it doesn’t detect a rear-seat passenger or presence of a car seat, it can tell if the rear door has been opened and closed up to ten minutes before the vehicle is started (or while the vehicle is running). If so, consider it activated. And when the ignition is cut, audible chimes go off a and a visual message pops up on dashboard that reads “Rear Seat Reminder, Look in Rear Seat.” GMC plans to include it in other four-door models, as well as provide a disabling feature if you don’t have a baby.
Driver’s Little Helper
The nice thing about the Driver’s Little Helper monitor is that if you don’t answer the alert asking why you left your kid in the car, it’s going to start scrolling through your contact list. So don’t be surprised if Grandma calls. DLH is another weight sensor that fits under the car-seat pad while a battery pack secures to the back. It detects if the baby’s still seated after the car is turned off, as well as if a child wiggles free from the seat. And it sends both text or email messages to a smartphone app, but there are no audible alarms. It also has a built in thermometer so you can see what the temp in the back seat ⏤ while the A/C vent blows icy cold air on your face up front.
While not set to hit stores until December (you can pre-order now, though), Elpho’s eClip ⏤ much as might infer from the name ⏤ clips on to the car seat’s shoulder strap. Doesn’t get an easier than that. Turn it on and it syncs via Bluetooth to either your smartphone or an accompanying key fob. Get out of the car and walk more than 15 feet away without your child and an alarm goes off. Keep walking because somehow you don’t hear it, and the eClip will start texting a spouse, relative, or friend. It also has a built in thermometer and will alert the driver if temps in the back seat get either too hot or too cold.