A woman holding an infant while standing next to a car
Photo: Getty Images

Children and hot cars can be a fatal combination. On average, there are 38 heatstroke-related deaths each year. Consumer Reports testing has shown that the temperature in a parked car can rise to dangerous levels on even a mild day. Our experts found that when it was 61° F outside, the temperature inside a closed car could reach more than 105° F in just an hour, an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal level for a child.

Many parents comment on social media outlets that such an accidental death would never happen to their child. But research has shown that anyone can forget a small child in a car, especially parents who have a change in their routine or those who are under stress. Just as drivers often find themselves lost in thought and navigating on autopilot, often getting to their destination without remembering details of the trip or missing a turn to run an errand, distracted parents can forget a quiet child or pet.

Many automakers now offer technology to help prevent these heatstroke deaths. These models have systems that can remind drivers that a rear door has been opened on a trip. A simple display in the gauge cluster, typically accompanied by a warning tone, encourages drivers to check the back seat.

The auto industry has committed to introducing rear-seat reminders that include a combination of auditory and visual alerts in essentially all cars and trucks by the 2025 model year

More on Car Safety

Consumer Reports, along with many other advocates of child passenger safety, have pushed for automakers to provide integrated heatstroke prevention systems. And CR hopes to see them proliferate in the marketplace in many more mainstream, affordable vehicles, enabled straight from the factory and standard across all trims, says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center.

CR favors systems that are delivered turned on as a default setting, because many parents don’t think they could make this mistake, Stockburger says. If parents or caregivers have to activate the system manually, it’s less likely to be used.

Below are highlights of how these systems work based on our testing and experience. And there’s a chart that lists the vehicles that have an available rear-seat reminder system. The chart indicates whether the system uses door logic to issue the reminder and/or whether it has a motion-detecting sensor. Of course, whether your car has a reminder system or not, always check the back seat, and never leave children unattended in a vehicle.

Essentially these systems can be identified as two main types: door logic reminder alerts and occupant detection alerts.

GM rear-seat reminder.
GM rear seat reminder
Photo: GM

Door Logic Reminder Alerts

Door logic systems note if a rear door is opened prior to or during a trip and provide a visual alert at the end of a trip, which may be accompanied by audible chimes. This type of system was first introduced by General Motors in the 2017 GMC Acadia. Now, all of the currently available vehicle-integrated heatstroke prevention systems use this approach, with some Hyundai/Genesis/Kia models also using motion detectors, as explained below. Most systems come factory-enabled, with the exception of Nissan’s Rear Door Alert. The Nissan system also stands out with its external audible alert after exiting the vehicle. Ford’s Rear Occupant Alert allows for deactivation of the reminder system but will prompt the user every six months to reactivate. 

Occupant Detection Alerts

These systems can detect motion in the vehicle. The Hyundai/Genesis/Kia Rear Occupant Alert uses ultrasonic sensors to detect occupant motion in the back seat after a vehicle has been locked. To date, these are the only vehicles available on the market with this capability. They also send a notification to the driver’s phone or email through the telematics subscription. Recently, the Federal Communications Commission approved the use of highly sensitive in-car radar technology to combat pediatric heatstroke deaths. Genesis claims that the high-powered radar sensing system available in the 2022 Genesis GV70 can detect a sleeping child or even their breathing motions.

2022 Genesis GV70 rear
2022 Genesis GV70
Photo: Genesis

Guide to Rear-Seat Reminders in New Cars by Brand

BrandYearModelTypeTrim

Standard/
Optional

Buick2021Enclave

Door logic

AllStd.
Buick2021Encore

Door logic

AllStd.
Buick2021Envision

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021CT4

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021CT4-V

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021CT5

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021CT5-V

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021Escalade

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021Escalade ESV

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021XT4

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021XT5

Door logic

AllStd.
Cadillac2021XT6

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Blazer

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Bolt EV

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Colorado

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Equinox

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Malibu

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Silverado 1500

Door logic

Crew Cab and Double CabStd.
Chevrolet2021Silverado HD

Door logic

Crew Cab and Double CabStd.
Chevrolet2021Spark

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Suburban

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Tahoe

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Trailblazer

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Traverse

Door logic

AllStd.
Chevrolet2021Trax

Door logic

AllStd.
Ford2021Bronco 4DRDoor logicAllStd.
Ford2021Bronco SportDoor logicAllStd.
Ford2021EdgeDoor logicAllStd.
Ford2021ExpeditionDoor logicAllStd.
Ford2021Explorer/Police InterceptorDoor logicAllStd.
Ford2021F-150/Police ResponderDoor logicAllAvailable
Ford2021Mustang Mach EDoor logicAllStd.
Ford2021RangerDoor logicAllStd.
Ford2021Super DutyDoor logicSuper Cab, Crew CabStd.
Ford2021TransitDoor logicAll with rear seats, 4 doorStd.
Genesis2021G80

Door logic

PrestigeStd.
Genesis2021G80Motion detection, door logicPrestigeStd.
Genesis2021GV80

Door logic

AdvancedStd.
Genesis2021GV80Motion detection, door logicAdvancedStd.
GMC2021Acadia

Door logic

AllStd.
GMC2021Canyon

Door logic

AllStd.
GMC2021Sierra 1500

Door logic

Crew Cab and Double CabStd.
GMC2021Sierra HD

Door logic

Crew Cab and Double CabStd.
GMC2021Terrain

Door logic

AllStd.
GMC2021Yukon

Door logic

AllStd.
GMC2021Yukon XL

Door logic

AllStd.
Honda 2021AccordDoor logic AllStd.
Honda 2021OdysseyDoor logicAllStd.
Hyundai2021Elantra

Door logic

AllStd.
Hyundai2021Palisade

Door logic

AllStd.
Hyundai2021PalisadeMotion detection, door logicSELOpt.
Hyundai2021Santa Fe

Door logic

AllStd.
Hyundai2021Santa FeMotion detection, door logicSELStd.
Hyundai2021Santa Fe HEV

Door logic

AllStd.
Hyundai2021Santa Fe HEVMotion detection, door logicAllStd.
Hyundai2021Sonata

Door logic

AllStd.
Infiniti2021Q50

Door logic

N/AN/A
Infiniti2021Q60

Door logic

N/AN/A
Infiniti2021QX50

Door logic

N/AN/A
Infiniti2021QX80

Door logic

AllStd.
Kia2021SorentoMotion detection, door logicAllStd.
Kia2021Sorento HybridMotion detection, door logicAllStd.
Kia2021TellurideMotion detection, door logicAllStd.
Kia 2021K5

Door logic

AllStd.
Lincoln2021AviatorDoor logicAllStd.
Lincoln2021NautilusDoor logicAllStd.
Lincoln2021NavigatorDoor logicAllStd.
Nissan2021Altima

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Armada

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Frontier

Door logic

N/AN/A
Nissan2021Kicks

Door logic

SV, SRStd.
Nissan2021

Leaf

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Maxima

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Murano

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Pathfinder

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Rogue

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Rogue Sport

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Sentra

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Titan

Door logic

AllStd.
Nissan2021Versa

Door logic

SV, SRStd.
Subaru 2021Ascent

Door logic

AllStd.
Subaru 2021Crosstrek

Door logic

All w/ CVTStd.
Subaru 2021Crosstrek Hybrid

Door logic

Only one trim Std.
Subaru 2021Forester

Door logic

AllStd.
Subaru 2021Impreza

Door logic

All w/ CVTStd.
Subaru 2021Legacy

Door logic

AllStd.
Subaru 2021Outback

Door logic

AllStd.
Toyota2021Camry

Door logic

AllStd.
Toyota2021Camry HV

Door logic

AllStd.
Toyota2021Highlander

Door logic

AllStd.
Toyota2021Highlander Hybrid

Door logic

AllStd.
Toyota2021RAV4 Prime

Door logic

AllStd.
Toyota2021Sienna

Door logic

AllStd.
Acura2022MDXDoor logicAllStd.
Honda2022CivicDoor logicAllStd.
Honda 2022OdysseyDoor logicAllStd.
Kia2022CarnivalMotion detection, door logicAllStd.

Keeping Kids Safe From Hot Cars

Just how hot can the inside of a car get? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Emily Thomas, PhD, shows host Jack Rico how rapidly interior temperatures can rise—and what you can do to protect your kids.