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
this post.]

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 – Automobiles Ignore our Children.

Three small marketing photos of the Child 'Minder product, a seat belt latch transmitter and wireless key chain receiver
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
packing tape.

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
reminder.

[Link via Bebés y más via Gizmología via News.com]

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.

Comments

10 Responses to “Child ‘Minder Kid-in-Car Reminder Device”

  1. Carol says:

    I’ve had brief moments where I’ve had an overwhelming feeling of panic when I’ve wondering where this child or that child was. Thankfully they weren’t ever with me in the first place. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror that father felt when he realized what he’d done and had to take that long train ride back to his car! Please, don’t ever let this happen to me!!!!

    March 24th, 2006 at 8:28 pm

  2. Sean Graham says:

    I am an expecting dad, and can barely remember where I put my car keys, wallet, and other daily items. Heck, I even forget to zip up the ‘ole fly from time to time, realizing it hours later when a gust of wind hits me in a funny way. So, needless to say, I am terrified that I’ll have a mental lapse, and forget my baby sleeping (yeah right) in the backseat. This device must have been made with me in mind.

    Side Note: You are correct, they pre-order form does not have encryption. I suspect it’s because it’s “pre-order”, and there won’t be an actual transaction done upon submittal. Still, with the rise of identity theft, your just asking for problems if you send your cc number without encryption.

    March 25th, 2006 at 7:19 am

  3. Serena says:

    Love the concept. Unfortunately using the chest clip portion on the car seat straps could put your child in danger.

    Most (if not all) manufacturers warn against using aftermarket products on their car seats. After market product being one that wasn’t included for sale with with your child restraint.

    Using this product would void warentees, absolve liability and possibly cause damage to your child by not working as the chest clip was intended. I’d love to see one that clipped to the side of the seat but that did not replace the original chest clip.

    April 24th, 2006 at 1:27 pm

  4. Qian Sun says:

    Good idea. Could be extend a little. Is the sound loud enough. What about deaf people. For popular use, the price is little high, don’t have too much technology in it.

    June 26th, 2006 at 2:12 pm

  5. Jeana says:

    After recently hearing about a California woman who left her 5 month old in her vehicle for 8 hours while at work and after work went to her baby’s daycare center for them to tell her she never dropped the baby off, my heart was broken. I don’t blame the mother, I don’t think she needs a “stiff, lesson learning sentance”, she’s already learned her lesson. Unfortunately it’s just too late. I couldn’t imagine having to live with that horror.
    This has caused me to start thinking about a system like the “child ‘minder”. I myself being 8 months pregnant with my first fear this someday happening to me or my husband and I think it’s time the automobile industry revalutionized it’s child safety devices. The kid minder is a great start but I think it needs to go beyond that. When you go to get out of your car it will warn you if your lights are on or if the keys are still in the ignition. Cars can now adjust the interior settings to your liking with the push of the button and most have weight sensors to remind you put your seat belt on or to let you know that the passenger air bag is off. All new cars are also equiped with the LATCH system, a child carseat safty system. It’s time they step it up and figure out how to make this stop happening! I just wish I knew where to go from here. I’ve thought through many differnt ways it could be done but how do you get these ideas presented to the proper people. I think it’s time for something to change, now if I could just figure out how to make that change happen!
    For now, I will be awaiting the arrival of this product on the market and will seriously consider purchasing it. It seems it has it’s downsides as posted by others but so far, it’s all we’ve got. We need to start somewhere.

    July 2nd, 2006 at 1:31 am

  6. Andrea Lester says:

    As of this date, Aug 24th, 23 children have died from hyperthermia after unintentionally forgotten in a hot car. My suggestion to parents, grandparents, caregivers is to use several devices to help avoid this sad circumstance. Put your purse and/or briefcase on the seat next to the car seat, put a stuffed animal on the front seat, place a Forget Me Not Auto Window sticker on the driver’s side window above the door lock so you will see it when you exit the vehicle, program your cell phone to send you a message to check your car. Put a Forget Me Not Sticker on the door you exit every morning before you leave for work; Use everything and anything you can think of that will help you remember. And, when not using your car, LOCK IT AT ALL TIMES.

    Did you know that in Philadelphia this month a 23 year old handicapped man was forgotten in a van and died from hyperthermia? And a 12 year old handicapped boy in the Dallas area was forgotten but fortunately found before he died from hyperthermia.
    Sadly, this problem is not just limited to small children

    Do you think it would help if radio, t.v. and print media offered a public service announcement every morning before we left for work and on our way to work? What about posting reminders on the LED signs on the freeways? What about a reminder sign at work, something you would see on your arrival? These are my thoughts.

    “BE LIKE AN ELEPHANT AND NEVER FORGET”

    August 24th, 2006 at 6:48 am

  7. Jenean Lannon says:

    I haven’t had any of the epsisodes listed above, but I would forget where I was going or what I was going to do. I always had my kids, tho. They were 20 months apart, so I always had baby stuff to carry. I put my purse inside the diaperbag so I couldn’t forget anything important. Try it, it worked for me.

    September 8th, 2007 at 8:34 am

  8. Suzanne M says:

    I had the same thoughts about a weight detection method, perhaps in the form of an inserted liner pad that is placed under the baby in the car seat. This could travel with the baby despite which vehicle or seat s/he rode in. And the auto / car seat manufacturers are remiss in not offering some built in technology. I hope they aren’t worrying about liability if they develop a system and it fails…

    October 10th, 2007 at 1:48 pm

  9. D.Jackson says:

    I’ve been waiting for this thing to actually come out for sale for ages now. I keep seeing all these websites that mention it, but no one who has actually bought one and used it. Every time I look at a different ad for it, it’s a different color. Does anyone actually have one yet? You get no answers from the site’s customer support email. Sorry, but I’m starting to wonder.

    denajj

    December 27th, 2007 at 1:52 pm

  10. Carlos says:

    There is another product out now called Baby Safety Line. It is a simple reminder to help remind you that your child is in the vehicle.

    January 5th, 2008 at 4:46 pm

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