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August 12, 2016

As August temperatures continue to spike in the northeast and throughout the country, the threat of child hot car deaths also mounts. Several dozen children die from heatstroke each year after being left in locked cars, and the traffic app Waze has launched a new feature in an attempt to prevent some of these deaths.

Waze rolled out a new safety feature called “Child Alert” in its update last week that aims to reduce hot car related deaths for children and pets. Users of the app can turn on the feature, personalized with the name of a child or pet, that reminds drivers to check their backseat every time they arrive at a destination.

“It’s an unfortunate reality that nearly 40 children die every year of heatstroke from being left in a hot car,” Mary Kelleher, a spokesperson from Waze, told the Boston Globe. “From our end, we see this as an extra reminder for those drivers who want it.”

Relying on a piece of technology to remind drivers about children in the backseat may not be the best option for concerned parents, according to one advocate, however. From drained batteries to application glitches, technology can often fail.

“There’s just so many things that can go wrong with them,” Amber Andreasen, director of the safety organization KidsandCars.org, told Travel + Leisure of cellphones.

“But you can use them as an extra layer of protection,” she added.

Our minds often run on autopilot when navigating from home to work, or from work to a child’s daycare, and even a slight change in routine can cause a parent to forget that their child is still in the backseat, Andreasen said. Many hot car deaths occur when a parent is taking their child out of daycare for an appointment, or dropping them off at a different time than usual.

Andreasen recommends putting items in the backseat that anyone would need to before leaving their car, such as a phone, purse or wallet. Concerned parents can also take off their left shoe and put it in the backseat as a reminder, she said, as it’s hard to get very far with one shoe.

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