Friday, March 24th, 2006
Child ‘Minder Kid-in-Car Reminder Device
(…and more of my ranting about car safety.)
Yesterday, a father dashed off to catch a commuter train in Washington D.C., accidentally leaving his 7-and-a-half-month old child in his car.
That father cannot be punished anymore than you could punish your child for tripping and getting his clothes dirty. Punishment won’t correct the behavior because the behavior was unintentional and unpredictable. We’re dealing with an accident, a mental lapse, not malice or even carelessness. It’s an extreme case of “out-of-sight out-of-mind.”
[Yes, sometimes parents intentionally leave their kids unattended.
That's not what I'm discussing here, although, I will at the end of
My guess in accidental abandonments is that many involve infants
under a year old. I experienced a mental hiccup a few weeks after
Little Miss was born. I dashed off to the post office, like I do every day, while Miss was at
home with Mom. As I exited my car I had an “oh yeah” moment when I
remembered I had a baby and my whole life was different. Wait a minute,
when exactly during the 5 minute car trip had I forgotten that?
I’m not surprised that a sleep deprived new parent could suffer a
mental lapse when doing something by rote, a part of his or her
pre-baby daily routine. There’s nothing more routine than exiting your
vehicle which, until now, never involved having a quiet baby in the
back seat. It’s like waking up on Saturday thinking it’s a weekday and
you have to get ready for work. Habit and routine are powerful stuff.
Does it happen often? No way. But every year a few dozen children
die by accident and many of those deaths can be prevented. We need
simple technological improvements in cars. These solutions were
discussed in my previous post, Deadly Silence â€“ Automobiles Ignore our Children.
Until cars improve, we have to adapt. The Child ‘Minder by Baby Alert is one such adaptation. It appears to be a true reminder system for a child safety seat.
One part is a buckle with a wireless transmitter which fastens over
your child’s existing seat strap. The transmitter activates when the
buckle is engaged and turns off when the buckle is opened.
The second part is a key chain receiver. If the parent walks more
than 20 feet from the vehicle with the child’s buckle still engaged,
the key ring plays a reminder nursery rhyme.
Both units have audible low battery indicators.
The Child ‘Minder web site
indicates the ‘Minder will be available in “early 2006.” Before filling
out their pre-order form with your credit card data, check whether the
page is encrypted. I’m not seeing encryption.
Also see: Alarm helps parents remember kids in cars [news.com]
OK, I was originally going to include links to a variety of other
reminder products… key rings (attached to your keys when you place
your baby in his car seat and left on the seat when it’s empty),
stickers (placed in strategic locations to jog your memory) and even a
reminder you attach to your wrist which looks like a long strip of neon
They just don’t cut it in my book. A reminder needs to reach out and grab you without effort on your part.
I will seriously consider buying the Child ‘Minder when it hits the
market. I don’t expect to ever need it, but every parent whose kid has
died in a hot or cold car will tell you they didn’t expect to need a
Side note: Mom and I reported our first baby-left-in-car incident on
Wednesday… a baby sleeping in a car parked outside a children’s
store. The outside temperature was OK, but the child could have easily
been abducted. The parents were still AWOL 15 minutes later when the
police car rolled up. We were floored when the officer dragged both of the child’s parents out of the store to have a little chat. In California, those parents received a $100 fine or attendance in an educational program.