Nissan adds safety feature to prevent child hot car deaths

NEW YORK -- Every summer, tragedy strikes when children are accidentally left in hot cars, but now carmakers are coming up with solutions to prevent child deaths.

Nissan's "rear door alert" technology could be lifesaving for a child, and it is the warning sound that is now standard equipment on 10 of its 2019 models.

"We wanted to make sure we had two levels to alert the driver," said Elsa Foley, a mother of two and program manager at Nissan.

Foley, along with another engineer, proposed the patented safety feature, which was first installed in the 2018 Pathfinder.

"Our goal was to get it standard on as many models as fast as possible," she said.

The RDA monitors switches in the rear door prior to and after a trip. If you had opened that rear door and put your child inside, at the end of that trip, you will first be shown a warning in the center dash that says "Check Rear Seat for All Articles." But if you should walk away from the vehicle without checking the back seat, the driver is then alerted.

"If you forget or don't see that message and you get out of the vehicle, if you don't go back and open and close the rear doors, then the horn honks," Foley said. "It's a very distinct horn chirp that gives your attention back to the car, says 'Hey, maybe you forgot something.'"

Twenty-two children nationwide have died from heatstroke in cars since the start of 2019, according to Consumer Reports -- two of the latest to die were 1-year-old twins discovered in the Bronx Friday after their father went to work and left the children in the car for eight hours.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking," Foley said. "So I'm really glad that Nissan is taking the initiative to get this out onto our vehicles as quickly as possible."

The company plans to have "rear door alert" standard on its four-door models by 2022.
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