How Technology Can Help Prevent Child Deaths from Hot Vehicles

Written By Robin Jabour

We are heartbroken every time we hear stories about children dying after being left in hot vehicles.  Despite increased awareness over the last decade, heatstroke injuries and death from being left in hot vehicles still occur. Dozens of children die each year due to these circumstances and these are tragedies that have to end. We can only stop these tragedies by first learning why they occur, and then by taking measures designed to avoid their occurrence.

The primary reason that a child is left in a hot vehicle is because the parent or caregiver “forgets”. Busy schedules, exhaustion, and confusion about whose role it is to take a child to daycare, combined with the fact that it is unfathomable for a parent to even imagine they might “forget” their child, places a child at risk.

Preventing Child Deaths from Hot Cars

So how do we control the risk?  Some experts propose that when a parent places a child in a car seat, they also put their purse, wallet, computer, phone, or something else that is instrumental to the rest of their day beside the child’s seat. This way, the parent or caregiver will always check that place before leaving the vehicle for the day.

Where the child is in a daycare situation, another idea is to ask the daycare to implement a policy to call or text a parent if a child is expected but does not arrive on time to the daycare.

Where the daycare transports children to activities or on trips at times, ask to review the daycare policy for child transport to ensure there is a process to count children and check all seats twice before the vehicle is locked.

Technology to Prevent Child Deaths from Hot Cars

Technology has also recently been developed to prevent these types of tragedies.

Some child safety seats contain features that alert a caregiver that a child is still in his car seat.  As an example, the SensorSafe-equipped safety seat model from Evenflo includes buckle sensors that remind parents or caregivers that a child is in the backseat when the car stops.

The navigation app Waze has created a feature that reminds users who set an alert to message a driver that a child is in the car, upon arriving at a destination.

Finally, vehicle manufacturers are developing technology to alert parents or caregivers of the presence of a child in the backseat. Recent legislation (Hot Cars Act of 2017) requires manufacturers to provide a reminder alert that a child is located in the backseat. The technology proposed uses weight detection sensors similar to what is currently used in airbag and seatbelt systems.

Implementing any (or all) of these suggestions can prevent needless deaths and the destruction of families. We should support any measure that seeks to avoid even one senseless death.  

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