GM Rear Seat Reminder
General Motors
June 14, 2016 5:06 PM EDT

Nearly 40 children die of heatstroke each year after being left behind in vehicles, according to one estimate. Automaker General Motors wants to reduce that figure with a new feature that reminds drivers to check the back seat before leaving their car.

The Rear Seat Reminder plays a sound and displays a dashboard message when a driver is leaving his or her car after opening the back seat before they first set off. (The assumption being the door was opened to leave something in the back.) It will be included on the 2017 model year GMC Acadia SUV, while rolling out to other GM brands at a later time.

“As a mother, I can’t imagine leaving my kids in the back seat of a car,” says Tricia Morrow, an engineer working on vehicle safety at GM who brought the new reminder to fruition. “But I know it can happen, and I know our lives are so scheduled to the last minute, we felt we needed to do something.”

To be sure, it’s easy to see a driver disregarding the Rear Seat Reminder as just another alert. But Morrow is optimistic that the feature might cut down on the grim statistics surrounding the number of children — and pets — who die as a result of what’s called “vehicular heatstroke.”

“We just want you to take a really quick look in the back seat, just as a first step in combating this heat stroke issue,” she says.

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