Devices to Protect Children Against Heat Stroke in Cars Found Wanting
We’ve all heard horrific stories of children and animals locked inside a hot car, often to a fatal end. We recounted one such story in Florida a couple of years ago. Although parents and child-care providers are admonished never to leave a child unattended in a car, even briefly, accidents happen.
Between 1998 and 2009, nearly 500 children died from heat stroke after being locked in a vehicle. More than half of the fatalities were children younger than 2. Sometimes, deaths occur when parents or caregivers are unaware that a child has climbed into a car and become trapped.
Enter the market. Devices known as child safety seat monitoring systems were developed to prevent potentially dangerous heat stroke if a child becomes locked in a hot car. But according to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these products are neither reliable nor consistent.
The report is the result of a study by the NHTSA and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which reviewed three devices. The ChildMinder Smart Clip System, the ChildMinder Smart Pad and the Suddenly Safe Pressure Pad, it warns, can create a false sense of security. (These devices can't address the situation of an adult not knowing when a child has locked him or herself in a car, or when a child is left there intentionally; they must be activated.)
As reported on AboutLawsuits.com, there are about 18 similar products on the market. They can be difficult to install, which contributes to their unreliability.
Among the documented problems:
- inconsistency of the arming sensitivity;
- variations in the warning signal distance;
- potential for interference by other electronic devices, such as cellphones;
- potential for failure if liquid is spilled on them;
- -potential for failure if the child is out of position.
To address the terrible tragedy of losing a car-bound child to heat stroke, the NHTSA has developed a campaign, “Where’s baby? Look before you lock.” It advises:
- Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended, even if the windows are down, the air conditioning is on or the engine is running.
- Do not allow children to play in an unattended vehicle.
- Habitually look in the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.
- Make sure child-care providers call if a child does not show up for care on schedule.
- Put your cellphone or a stuffed animal in the backseat to remind you that a child is there.
Make sure the reminder is in the driver’s view.
- Instruct children not to play in vehicles, and place keys where they cannot reach.
- If you drop your child off at child care when it’s normally your spouse or partner’s job, have him or her call you to ensure the switch was completed.
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