‘Kid in hot car’ warnings futile

2012-08-01 11:30

A study by a US traffic safety agency and a children’s hospital has revealed that products intended to prevent adults unintentionally leaving children behind in hot cars and prevent child heatstroke are “limited in their effectiveness”.

Stories of distracted parents heading straight to their offices and forgetting about their babies and toddlers strapped into their child seats are not uncommon, and while there are aftermarket devices in the US to help prevent this, their effectiveness is being questioned.

The study conducted by the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that the current products available to prevent child heatstroke tragedies fell short in their tasks.


In the US, heatstroke is rated as the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under 14 years. According to the San Francisco State University, 33 children died of headstroke (or hyperthermia) in 2011.

CHOP was commissioned by the NHTSA to evaluate a number of products that connect to child seats and are advertised to help parents and child minders remember they have children in the rear seats.

The study revealed certain technological limitations, including inconsistencies in arming sensitivity, differences in warning signal distance, potential interference with the device’s signals from other electronic devices and disarming of the devices due to an out-of-position child.

Since the devices are child seat-based, they also do not address the number of children who are killed when they enter the car without an adult present or are not in child restraints.

NHTSA administrator David Strickland said: "While many of these products are well intended, we cannot recommend parents and caregivers rely on technology to prevent these events from occurring."


The NHTSA has launched a "Where's baby? Look before you lock" campaign in the US, but there's no reason South Africans can't follow these handy tips:
* Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle – even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on;
* Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away;
* Ask the childcare provider to call if the child does not show up for care as expected;
* Do things that serve as a reminder a child is in the vehicle, such as placing a cell phone, purse or briefcase on the back seat; and,
* Teach children a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child's reach.