It's a serious issue that needs to stop.
General Motors introduced some innovative new safety features recently, including a new Buckle To Drive system in the 2020 Chevy Traverse. The system was designed for teen drivers and won't allow the car to go into gear unless the driver's seatbelt is buckled. GM also has another safety feature called Rear Seat Reminder, which alerts the driver to check the back seat once the ignition is turned off if the rear doors were opened sometime during the trip.
This feature is also extremely innovative because it ensures parents do not forget their children or pets in the back seat, which has become a serious issue in the US. We tested Rear Seat Reminder on the Buick Envision and it helped us remember to take our bags out of the back seat on several occasions.
GM's Rear Seat Reminder is an excellent feature but is not required to be installed by law, nor does it detect a child seat. According to a Reuters report, that may change as Congress is now considering making car child alerts mandatory in all new vehicles. More than 800 children have died in hot cars in the US over the past two decades, making the mandatory adoption of this system seem necessary.
The bill being proposed by Congress would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to write new rules for automakers within the next two years. These rules would specify "a distinct auditory and visual alert” to remind drivers to check their back seat when exiting the car.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a lobbying group that includes GM, Toyota, VW, and other automakers, says it will "carefully review any legislative proposals keeping in mind that fewer than 13% of new car buyers have a child six years old or younger.” This feature may be specifically geared towards car owners with children, but we didn't have any children present when testing the Envision and we still enjoyed the reminder to check the back seat.
The Alliance also argued that "It takes about two decades for a technology to reach all the passenger vehicles on our roads. Greater public awareness saves live today.” The Senate version of the bill was already introduced and the House version will be introduced in the next few weeks.