A Look at Three Child Car Heat Death Safety Devices

Preface:

When a baby is intentionally left in a car and dies from extreme heat or cold, we rightfully blame the parent. But when a baby is accidentally left in a vehicle and dies we still blame the parent. According to KidsInCars.org, 665 kids died left in vehicles between 2002 and 2006 in America, an average 133 kids every year.

We are outraged because we can’t imagine anyone forgetting a child in a car, but psychologists can. It is the worst case of "out of sight, out of mind" possible. One expert who studies how people interact with technology thinks these car deaths started to skyrocket when laws began requiring babies to be placed in the back seats of vehicles.

What if we approached this issue like we do our homes? We can buy outlet covers, hallway gates and hundreds of other devices to protect babies from our lapses, from our periods of absent-minded parenting.

What if we demanded the same safety measures for car seats? Your car beeps if the driver’s seat belt isn’t latched or if you forget to turn off your headlights. Our cars should alert us if we leave with a baby unattended. It is possible.

The Child Presence Sensor was developed for cars by NASA, "inspired by aircraft flight test technology."

A thin sensor that detects weight changes as slight as 8 ounces is placed between a child safety seat cushion and the frame of the seat. Merely placing and removing a baby from the seat activates or turns off the sensor. A transmitter mounted on the seat activates an alarm on a special key chain the parent carries when the parent walks too far from the vehicle.

The bad news is that NASA was seeking commercial partners to license the technology in 2002, and apparently is still waiting. The estimated cost of the device is in the $20 to $30 range.

The Halo Baby Seat Safety System by Sisters of Invention seems similar to the NASA prototype, with some extras.

A 3"x6" pad is placed under the child’s seat cushion, and putting a baby in the seat activates the pad. If a parent walks 20 feet from the vehicle with the baby still in his seat, an alarm on a special "key pod" sounds.

Better still, if the temperature inside the vehicle "becomes dangerous for the baby," an alarm also sounds on the key chain, even if the driver is inside the vehicle. If the parent does not respond within a "predetermined amount of time," a louder alarm in the seat pad sounds with a voice saying "Baby in danger!" to alert passersby.

The device isn’t sold commercially yet, but the expected cost is $150.

News article: Inventors venture out in search of funding

Photo of the Child 'Minder installed in a car seat and a standalone product photo.

The Child ‘Minder by Baby Alert is actually on the market! It is a seat 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 parent carries a key chain receiver. If the parent walks more than 10 feet from the vehicle with the child’s buckle still engaged, the key ring sounds an alarm. Both units have audible low battery indicators.

I wonder whether replacing your child’s shoulder harness chest clip with the Child ‘Minder might void your seat’s warranty. But hey, it appears to be the only safety device of its kind on the market and sells for $65.

Final Thought:

Unfortunately, legislation cannot improve child-in-car abandonment in accidental situations. If you realize the danger and didn’t intend to do it, how is throwing you in jail going to fix things? If may make the general public feel good, but it won’t do anything to prevent future deaths.

The solution is for car seat manufacturers to include an alarm system in their child seats by default. As the NASA product indicates, the added cost could be as little as $20. That’s worth saving 133 kids every year.

CALL TO ACTION: If you are reading this because a child died in your community, please forward the URL to your local newspapers. Better yet, write a letter to your congressional representatives, to your local newspaper editor and let parents know these devices exist. Demand that car seat manufacturers integrate this technology into their child safety seats. Children will continue to die until parents expect safer seats and the news media get the word out that these deaths are easily preventable.

Comments

26 Responses to “A Look at Three Child Car Heat Death Safety Devices”

  1. Amy says:

    I am glad to see you address this issue and to see that there are devices out there to assist. Mind you, I have never left my child alone in a car, I can see how it could be done. After my first son was born, I was on my way home from work and realized about half way home I had not picked him up at daycare yet.

    It was around that time that I read an articke about a child who’s father who recieved a phone call from his wife wondering why he had not dropped their child off at daycare that morning. She was now there to pick him up at the end of the day. He said he had, and then it hit him and he ran down stairs to find the child dead in the car.

    July 19th, 2007 at 11:09 am

  2. John says:

    This is why I’m glad Virginia does not require children to be in the back seat. I drive a pickup truck and my daughter’s seat is right beside me in the passenger seat. She is never out of sight.

    July 25th, 2007 at 1:36 pm

  3. Jennifer says:

    Sadly, a boy from our daycare just died yesterday from being forgotten when his father missed daycare and went straight to work. My husband and I thought to figure out a device to prevent this from happening.

    We should all be outraged that these devices exist, and they are not on every single car seat.

    One family is devastated, our whole daycare is crying, and our community is outraged. It keeps happening – let’s make it stop!! Get these devices out there!!

    July 27th, 2007 at 3:50 pm

  4. Mama Luxe says:

    Wow! What an amazing post…very helpful. I think to some extent part of the problem is we’ve just become too busy. It seems that this happens to parents mostly when something changed in their routine–Mom had to drop baby off instead of Dad, Dad had to take the kids because Mom was on a business trip, etc.

    But the truth is it only takes one time for it to happen to any of us–and for it to happen even one time is once too many…so hopefully these devices will save some lives. The lives of the helpless little babies and also the lives of the families that would never be the same if this happened to them.

    We added this to our Friday Playgroup because the word must get out!

    August 3rd, 2007 at 5:31 pm

  5. Brandon Cordes says:

    This just occurred yesterday in Cincinnati, my hometown…again. I intend to write my legislators today to ask them to require safety sensor devices in new cars. Why don’t each of you do the same and also email this blog to 10 of your friends, encouaging them to do likewise?

    Brandon

    August 24th, 2007 at 4:19 am

  6. Kellye Weinhofer says:

    Heart break again. Lexi Marie Sherwood, 9 months old died August 30th. The baby girl was a playmate of my son in daycare. It is now amazing to see a device was designed in 2002… When will these people realize it is not about the money? The law requires car seats for children and rightfully so, the law requires the car seat is in the back seat and facing backwards for children under one, as parents we follow the law to what result. It is time to stop the loss of life, time to stop the devastation of countless families, it is time to take action!

    September 4th, 2007 at 2:11 pm

  7. Lisa Kaemmerlen says:

    These stories are devastating – and it keeps happening. It should be taken another step further to get this resolved.

    Car companies should have a built-in alarm/voice system alerting you as soon as you open the driver door to a baby being in the car seat. I’m sure an engineer could figure out how to connect the sensor to the alarm system.

    September 5th, 2007 at 5:43 pm

  8. melissa bowman says:

    why isn’t the child minder baby alarm advertised. i have never heard of it until today. i’m sure tons of caring parents would pay for this extra safety feature to protect their most precious cargo.

    September 10th, 2007 at 6:41 pm

  9. Sandra says:

    I heard about the child minder alarm from my husband, who heard it on the radio in Sacramento, after they read a story of another parent who left their child in the car, and the child died. I just ordered on on their website, even though it’s backordered, since I can never imagine that it would happen to us, but it can since there are times my husband would take our son to daycare. They say it’s the most likely when schedules get swapped; when it’s not the usual parent taking the child to school/daycare, etc.

    September 11th, 2007 at 1:57 pm

  10. STL Mom says:

    The second baby in three weeks just died in a car in St. Louis.
    AJ, can I forward this post to the local newspaper? Maybe they could do a story about these alarms.

    September 14th, 2007 at 10:53 am

  11. AJ says:

    STL Mom, you are welcome to forward the link. In fact, that brings up a good idea. I’ve amended the article with a call to action (noted in red).

    September 14th, 2007 at 11:14 am

  12. MJ says:

    I too am glad to see this in place. I also had the same idea that the Child Minder implements, and I’m glad to see someone else put it on the market. It breaks my heart everytime I hear of a little one suffering or dying from parents who forget a child in a car unintentionally. I too agree that this type of technology needs to be standard on car seats and vehicles.

    September 18th, 2007 at 12:31 pm

  13. Missy Sherwood says:

    I am so thankful that everyone is beginning to look at this device. As a parent, I never thought that I would need something like this. I knew where my little girl was at every moment, or so I thought. I took Lexi out of daycare for the summer because I am a teacher, and I wanted to spend time with her. During that time, my husbad got used to going straight to work. When school started back in August, he started taking Lexi to daycare again. However, on August 30th, she didn’t make a sound in the car, and he got into work mode and drove straight to work. It was not until I reached the daycare that afternoon and called him that he went out to the car at my request. As a mother and wife who is hurting for the loss of her child and the pain of her husband, I am angered that this technology is available and not used! I am angered that my car beeps when my lights are still on, but nothing was there to tell my husband that our precious little girl was still in the back seat of the car! Something has to be done to keep this from happening again!

    October 1st, 2007 at 7:20 pm

  14. Chris says:

    http://www.sistersofinvention.com/orderch.php

    It looks like you can preorder now, and they expect to start selling 11/1/07

    October 12th, 2007 at 11:10 am

  15. AJ says:

    Chris, thanks for the alert. I e-mailed the company and learned that 11/1/07 is an old estimate. It will ship “closer to end of the year” or possibly later. I should be receiving a review sample to run through its paces and report about here before it goes on sale.

    October 12th, 2007 at 11:53 am

  16. Jim Starr says:

    Need for alarm agreed upon. Getting people to buy it and again to use it may be not so easy. Who admits they may forget their child and wants to wear an alarm to remember? When child goes in “other car” for unusual routine is when problem happens, but alarm is in “regular car”, or you must buy two. Who wants another key fob on their key chain?

    I am an engineer looking for a better way. Need market feedback. Will you buy one that requires professional installation to tie in to car system? Will you buy one for the “other car”? Will you deal with more annoying beeping or will you remove the batteries? Let me know, I can design it. There are about 8 patents out there for similar devices but all miss the mark and require inconvenience, admission of forgetting child, difficult installation, high price ($20 is just for the seat sensor), or portability issues. That’s why you don’t see many people marketing them. Help.

    November 24th, 2007 at 8:28 am

  17. Sally Davisson says:

    Hi, I’m Sally, the president of Sisters of Invention, the company with the HALO Baby Seat Safety System. It is very gratifying to see the attention that Thingamababy and the community members are giving this very serious problem.

    Boy, could we right a book by now! The process of developing a technical product and getting it to market is quite amazing. It takes money and way more time than you’d ever dream. But we believe that this is well worth pursuing. Our intitial motivation was a result of a baby who had died after being left in a car by a babysitter here in the Lexington area. The research is very interesting. In more case than not, this tragedy strikes well-educated, well-meaning parents, who are simply out of their normal routine. It just doesn’t take much to shift into work mode or shopping mode when the baby’s sound asleep in the back seat!

    AJ, we hope to ship you a prototype for field testing in March, but I will keep you posted. Once we’ve completed lab, in-house and field testing (as well as FCC certification filings) we’ll have the product available to ship. Estimating May or June, but we’ll keep it updated on our website if anyone is interested. I’m sure AJ will let you know what he thinks when he has a chance to take a look at the HALO System himself, and give you a recommendation.

    We know that a lot of it is solved by awareness of the fact that it could happen to anybody, so all the sharing of safety info is fabulous!

    Thanks,
    Sally Davisson

    January 23rd, 2008 at 9:31 am

  18. Aubrey Brinkley says:

    I have read your article, it is most interesting. I have designed a device that I think is quite improved. Thanks for your article. Aubrey.

    February 13th, 2008 at 11:35 am

  19. Ben Sade says:

    Hello my name is Ben. I read the intresting article and i would like to order the Child ‘Minder now. I forgot my child last year in the back of the car seat.

    February 20th, 2008 at 11:06 pm

  20. Darcell Smith says:

    I found out about your product when I thought that I came up with a wonderful idea of creating a car seat that reminds you that the baby is in the car. I had this all planned out and decided to do some research on the product and was suprised to see that there are several of these seats available. However, I thought it odd that I have not seen any of these seats in my local department stores. This would prove valuable to a lot of people and I hope that the word gets out there and your product becomes standard on car seats. I believe this necessary because I think that a lot of people will not believe that they could forget their child until it happens to them. I love the idea that if you walk away from the car your key alarm goes off and if you continue to walk your car alarm goes off.

    March 28th, 2008 at 6:06 pm

  21. Mark Best says:

    I have a consumer product called the Car-Seat -Occupied Baby-On-Board indicator alarm. I am not going to sit and wait. My device is not technology, it is simple circuitry and it works and it can be in place in the car in way under 5 minutes. I will be building them to order shortly but I have a few minor details before I am ready to launch it but it should only be a couple of weeks before I am ready to press forward. In Him I Trust
    Mark Best

    May 28th, 2008 at 4:24 pm

  22. Sharon at Whoa, Momma says:

    Great post! I had just blogged about having my own haunting moment where I had forgotten for a few minutes that there was a baby in the back of my car (on his first day of day care drop off) so I have always put my purse in the back of the car ever since. But I had never heard of these devices, so thank you. I agree, if we have a beep tell us to buckle up or turn off our headlights, a simple device to alert you to a baby in the car isn’t too much to ask.

    I’m glad too to see the attitude of heartbreak instead of condemnation for parents this happens to. I can’t imagine how they live with themselves, so I don’t think anyone screaming at them can be worse than what they tell themselves.

    July 17th, 2008 at 5:05 am

  23. Henry says:

    I am a perfect candidate for forgetting a child in the back seat of a car. My biggest frustration is the legislators who tell us what seat our children MUST sit in—or be fined. The problem with a manufactured safety devices is that not everyone will have one and if one fails and a child dies, the liabilty is huge. There are so many well intentioned laws with “unintended side effects”, and the child in the back seat is one of the most dreadful ones. The law makers should really keep their noses out of everyones business and we would all be better off.

    July 22nd, 2008 at 6:29 am

  24. Christina Naylor says:

    I Thank you so much for having this site and information available.
    I think that every mother everywhere should recieve a device as soon as they leave the hospital with thier newborn.it should also be on every carseat manufactured.carseat companies should put them on every seat.

    June 17th, 2009 at 7:33 am

  25. Rachel says:

    These devices should become a standard part of the car seat, not an accessory that is an option to buy.

    July 26th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

  26. Yoly says:

    This should be a standard part of any car seat. Yesterday a child in Puerto Rico died because his mother (a doctor) forgot to take him to childcare; it wasn’t part of her daily routine. That’s why I’m looking for info on these devices; sadly it can happen to anyone.

    April 5th, 2011 at 10:38 am

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