The start of another school year kicks off a list of many new things: new clothes, new school supplies and a new carpool schedule … which means new levels of patience are also required as parents figure out the logistics of school drop-off and pickup. Who needs to be where at what time and with whom? Say what?!
While many busy parents may wish cars came with an ejector-seat button to speed up the process (our favorite is in James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5), we’ve rounded up several features that are the next best thing, taking a little stress out of school drop-offs, pickups and carpooling.
Seat Belt Reminders
“I’m a huge fan of the rear seat belt use icons. There’s always that one kid (often my own) who tries to pretend that they’ve buckled up in the backseat. With the icons, I can call the offender, make sure they’ve buckled up and keep the carpool on time. This is found in the 2019 Toyota Camry and RAV4, among others.” — Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief
Power Sliding Doors
“I’m old enough that when I started carpooling, we had a van with a door on only one side, and two doors was a revelation. Power: even more magical. With the Chrysler Pacifica, the door even opens with a touch of the elbow — no hands needed. ” — Brian Wong, Los Angeles bureau chief
Rear Seat Reminder
“Look, parents are busy, and as judgy as you might be inclined to get at the very suggestion that someone might forget that they left their child snoozing away silently in the backseat, it could literally happen to anyone given the right set of the wrong circumstances. Automated rear seat reminders are a handy and long-overdue family-car feature that acts as an additional safeguard preventing anything from an “Oh, s***!!!” moment of realization to a potential tragedy resulting from a single moment of absentmindedness when parents are over-committed and under-caffeinated. GM, Hyundai and Nissan are among the automakers that have devised rear seat reminders that alert the driver when someone or something has been left in the backseat either by tracking when the rear doors have opened relative to the engine running, or even a sensor detecting movement back there. I was recently reminded how easy it is to forget something when the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison’s system reminded me that I’d left my work bag and laptop behind — sparing me a cold-sweated jolt out of my slumber at 3 a.m.” — Matt Schmitz, assistant managing editor
Safe Exit Assist
“School drop-off zones are often made up of a chaotic mixture of kids, bikes, cars and buses — sprinkle in a little I’m-late-to-work urgency and you have a recipe for disaster. The new available Safe Exit Assist feature on the 2020 Kia Telluride and 2020 Hyundai Palisade offers a little extra protection when things get hectic in the drop-off lane. It prevents the rear doors from unlocking and opening if it detects an oncoming vehicle on that side of the car.” — Jennifer Geiger, news editor
Second-Row Captain’s Chairs
“A three-row SUV with second-row captain’s chairs keeps the kids apart, and only more mainstream SUVs don’t put a console in the middle that blocks the aisle so your little charges have to scramble over it to the third row. Among the best is the Volkswagen Atlas, which has good third-row access between the captain’s chairs, as well as good access with the second-row seat tilted forward — even with a car seat installed. Also, it has a third row with just two decent seats rather than more clutter of belts and fittings to pretend there is room back there for three.” — Fred Meier, Washington, D.C., bureau chief
360-Degree Camera System
“A 360-degree camera system is a must. Inevitably you end up having to maneuver, even in the best-managed carpool lane, and the camera gives you an unobstructed view into blind spots on both ends and to the sides. My favorite is the sharp and easy-to-use split-screen system available on Hyundai SUVs, including the Santa Fe and Palisade.” — F.M.
“I’ll take all the help I can get when it comes to adding more children than my own to the mix for school drop-off, so I appreciate having an extra set of eyes with the CabinWatch system in the Honda Odyssey. It uses a camera to show front-seat occupants the rest of the passengers on the Display Audio screen, day or night. Initially, the nanny cam seemed more creepy than useful, but I’ve found it’s especially helpful to monitor third-row shenanigans.” — J.G.
“Automatic emergency braking has become widespread, but not all examples offer pedestrian detection. The feature, included in more-robust AEB systems, generally draws information from multiple sensors — a forward-facing radar and camera, for example — to detect pedestrians and, in some cases, cyclists. Like vehicle-to-vehicle AEB, it can apply the brakes to avoid or at least minimize the impact. One in three vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes involves a car hitting a person crossing the road, according to the Department of Transportation. And school zones represent a particular danger: In 2016, a study by SafeKids.org observed unsafe street crossing in school zones among some 80 percent of students. Robust pedestrian-detection systems as part of AEB won’t eliminate the risk, but they can help reduce it.” — Kelsey Mays, senior consumer affairs editor
More From Cars.com
- Study Finds Carpooling Parents Forgo Kids’ Booster Seats
- Research Minivans
- Research Three-Row SUVs
- Family News
- Find Your Next Car
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.