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Waze app adds alert to remind drivers that kids or pets are in the back seat

The Waze Child Reminder. Waze App/Handout

A new safety feature has been added to the popular navigation app Waze to help drivers avoid forgetting a child or a pet in a hot car. It’s called “Child Reminder.”

The alert option became available last week with the most recent update of the app.

Meghan Kelleher, a spokeswoman for Waze, said the company implemented the alert after getting feedback from users around the world about such tragic events. Just last week, 15-month-old twin girls died in Georgia after their father left them in a hot car.

He has been charged with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct.

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“It’s an unfortunate reality that nearly 40 children die every year of heatstroke from being left in a hot car,” Kelleher said. “From our end, we see this as an extra reminder for those drivers who want it. It’s a customizable alert that appears when arriving at a destination.”

There have already been 26 heatstroke-related deaths in 2016 after children were left inside cars, according to the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University. Noheatstroke.org, a university website that tallies such incidents, notes that a child’s body temperature warms at a rate three to five times faster than an adult’s.

In one hour on an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a car can rise to 123 degrees.

Hundreds of pets also die in hot cars every year, Kelleher said.

“We intentionally made it customizable,” she said. “We can put in our children’s names or dogs’ names. . . . We think it’s important to make it feel more personal.”

The alert looks like the smiling Waze logo dressed like a baby with a pacifier. It pops up with a yellow triangle and a message to check the car before exiting. It can be turned off or turned on at any time.

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Waze isn’t the only company attempting to minimize hot car deaths. In the 2017 GMC Acadia, a “Rear Seat Reminder” is already a standard feature.

On Tuesday, the Waze Facebook page included a few posts from those who thought the alert could be worthwhile for people not used to having kids in their vehicles all the time.

Others, meanwhile, criticized the app and those who choose to use the alert.

“If you need a reminder that your kid or dog is in the car then you don’t deserve to be raising either one!!!!” one person wrote.

In June, Boston had 709,000 active Waze users who together drive more than 172 million miles each month, according to the company.


Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.