While we wait for an important new law to pass, take your kid’s car safety into your own hands.

By Marisa Cohen
August 08, 2017

Your car already alerts you if a passenger isn’t wearing his seat belt or the overhead lights are left on, but soon it may tell you something even more important—if you’ve accidentally left your kid in the car.

If the recently introduced HOT CARS Act of 2017 is voted into law, it will require all new cars to be equipped with a safety device to warn drivers when a child is left in the back seat. The technology is still being developed, explains Susan Auriemma, vice president of the advocacy group Kids and Cars, but it would work something like this: If you open the back door at any point, and then don’t open it again after you turn off the car, a unique-sounding alarm will ring out. “It could be your dog or a package you placed in the back, but it is a reminder that something is back there,” says Auriemma. The new law could potentially save the lives of the dozens of children who die each year after being left in an overheated car.

Though a few car companies are already starting to offer versions of this safety feature (check out this video for Nissan’s 2018 Pathfinder), the law would make it mandatory on every new car starting in 2019.

While we wait for politicians to push this law through, there is a very easy, very low-tech trick that every adult should do every time they strap a child in the car, says Auriemma: Simply put your pocketbook, briefcase, or house keys on the floor in the back seat so you have to open the back door before you go about your day.

“Parents are only human, and we all get distracted occasionally,” Auriemma says. “Many of these tragedies happen when a parent is intending to drop the child off at daycare before work, but because of stress, spaces out and drives straight to the office.”

With that one simple hack, though, you can put your fears of doing the same thing to rest for good.

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