It happens far too often, and when it does, it is news. A child left in a parked car in the sun. Sometimes the child is spotted and rescued in time, and sometimes not. When it is criminal negligence, you can punish the parent. Blissful ignorance can be mitigated by pointing out the facts. But what do you do when a distracted parent simply forgets?
Enter Elsa Foley, an engineer, and program manager at Nissan USA, and a mother of two. She and her colleagues proposed and devised a simple, yet effective, system to help prevent these tragedies.
Their solution is the Nissan Rear Door Alert (RDA), which was pioneered in the 2018 Pathfinder and is now standard equipment on 10 of its 2019 models.
The RDA monitors the rear doors before and after every trip. If you had opened the rear door before setting off, perhaps to put your child inside, it will give you a nudge at the end of that journey. As you stop and turn off the key, a warning light on the dash will say: “Check Rear Seat for All Articles”. But should you walk away without checking, without opening and closing the back seat, the car will call you back. The horn will sound a distinct chirp that says: “Hey, maybe you forgot something”.
Your Nissan, including all its doors, are already electronically connected – an alarm will sound if a door is opened while the car is moving. So adding the RDA is simple and inexpensive.
But why is this an issue? We all know cars get hot when parked in the sun, but I am just popping into the shop for a minute…
This is a worldwide problem. In the USA for example, every year between 30 and 60 children die of this and hundreds are badly injured.
The type of car and its colour, the outside temperature and direct sun versus shade or cloud all make a difference to how fast the inside temperature will rise and by how much. The occupant’s size and weight, and age and health also make a difference. But none of those variables will indicate safety.
On average, after an hour the temperature inside a car parked in direct sun on a 35°C day will reach 47°C, with the seats going up to 51°C.
Cars parked in the shade had lower, but still hectic, temperatures: 38°C inside and 42°C seats.
Human core temperature cannot vary too much. A few degrees below 36.5°C will be debilitating, a few degrees lower will give you hypothermia and you can die. Similarly, more than 1°C over normal and you have a fever. At 40°C body temperature a small child can suffer hyperthermia, brain damage, go into a coma and die.
Children have a larger surface area compared to body volume than adults. This means their bodies are more susceptible to changes in temperature. An average 2-year old will suffer hyperthermia after one hour in the sun and two hours in the shade in the conditions listed above.
So, no. Don’t leave your child in the car while you quickly pop into the store. And thanks to the care and innovation of Nissan engineers, distracted parents will now be reminded not to do so.
Nissan is known for making great cars and its continuous innovation to improve the driving experience. Please have a look at the Nissan cars for sale in South Africa. You can book a test drive of your favourite Nissan at the same place.