Children Left in Hot Cars


I read this CNN article today: “Devices exist to keep kids from dying in cars, but few are sold.” I wasn’t aware that such devices — able to alert parents if they leave their child in their car — were on the market or that auto-makers were researching built-in devices. I also wasn’t aware that NASA (who I work for, now) was doing research for this too:

“NASA is on the verge of licensing its Child Presence Sensor, which replaces the clip with a weight-sensitive pad that fits under the car seat cushion,” the article states. “An alarm sounds 10 warning beeps if the driver moves too far away from the vehicle, and beeps continuously if the driver doesn’t return within one minute. Engineers at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Virginia developed the device after a colleague left his 9-month-old son in a hot car in May 2000.”

This happens way too much, whether intentionally or accidental. Some parents leave their kids in the car “for just a minute” while they run an errand, while others are busy or pre-occupied and forget to drop-off their child at daycare or the babysitter’s.

About two years ago, a friend-of-a-friend’s child died when the dad left the twin babies in the car. He was taking the twins and an older child to two different schools and took the older child and returned home, where he worked out of a home-office. He thought he took the twins to the daycare but didn’t, and they were buckled in their car seats in the hot car all day while he worked inside the house. One of the babies survived, but one did not.

Here’s another heart-wrenching story about another baby who died when a parent forgot and left them in the car. This one is on the web site of the makers of The Child Minder System referenced in the CNN article.

I was left in the car, once, when I was about 3. We had gone to church, and my mom thought my dad had me, and my dad thought my mom had me. As they approached the church the greeter said, “Where’s your little one today?” to which mom and dad had to look at each other say, “We don’t know. We guess she’s in the car.” I was only alone in the car for a few minutes, but it could have been longer if the church greeter hadn’t asked. A device like The Child Minder System or the one being researched by NASA could have prevented me from being left in the car too long and saved the lives the 340 babies and toddlers who have died of heat exhaustion after being trapped in hot cars in just the last decade.

I recommend the CNN interactive feature that goes along with this, too. It has interesting information about how fast a car can heat up and safety tips for preventing this from happening to you. If nothing else, let this post be a reminder to always look in the backseat and make sure the children have not been left in the car before going about your day.

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