'Don't forget your kids,' Israeli car app alerts remind parents

Waze, the Google-owned traffic-fighting navigation app, recently introduced a new safety feature for parents to ensure that they don't leave a sleeping child or pet in the car on a hot day.

August 7, 2016 18:20
2 minute read.

Waze starts pilot program. (photo credit: PR)


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It could happen to you.

Child safety advocacy group Beterem warns parents that forgetting a child in the car on a hot day could happen to the best of parents, and the effects could be deadly.

Between 2011-2015, 13 children in Israel died that way, an average of about two a year. In the US, the figure is 38 a year, according to child safety group Kids and Cars.

There are dangers for pets as well; hundreds on average a year in the US die of heat stroke after being left in cars, and cracking windows to keep the air flowing actually makes very little difference, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

To prevent these tragedies, Israeli apps are trying to make a difference.

Waze, the Google-owned traffic-fighting navigation app, recently introduced a new safety feature for parents to ensure that they don’t leave a sleeping child or pet in the car on a hot day.

The newest version of the app lets users turn on a child reminder feature if they are worried that they may leave their child behind.

“After navigating to any destination, this customization, opt-in alert appears at the end of your ride and reminds you to check your car before you leave,” Waze explained in a blog post on the new feature. The feature can be customized with the names of children or pets.

Another driving app, Pango, is taking a similar approach.

Pango, which lets users pay for parking in certain parking lots and cities through their app, has added reminders to check who’s in the car. A banner on the main page of the app, complete with a doodle of a smiling baby, reminds parents to have a look at the back seat as they park.

After the parking payment goes through, an alert is sent to reinforce the message.

“We feel an obligation and importance to act on social issues, which touch on the health concerns of drivers and their families,” said Pango marketing manager Irit Goldberg.

Israeli apps aren’t the only ones trying to make a difference.

In June, General Motors announced a reminder feature for their 2017 GMC Acadia, which would play a sound and light up a dashboard alert reminding drivers to look in the back seat.

The feature would be enabled if the back seat doors were opened and closed before the driver got in, or while the motor was running.

Whether or not these efforts will make a difference remains unclear, however. In 2013, a summer in which five children died of heat stroke after being left in the back seat in Israel, a handful of companies came forward with their own solutions, including reminder apps as well as in-car cameras that could sense movement and would open the windows on a hot day.

Since then, the number of such fatalities has returned to two a summer, the same number as in the years preceding the 2013 spike.

Kids and Cars recommends that parents get in the habit of always looking in the back seat before locking the car, and creating their own reminders, such as leaving a phone or bag in the back seat.

Another tip: Leave a big stuffed animal in the child seat when it’s not in use.

When the baby is in the child seat, put the stuffed animal up front as a visual reminder.

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