WASHINGTON, DC—A study conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that products intended to prevent children from being unintentionally left behind in a hot vehicle are unreliable and may give parents a “false sense of security.”
With temperatures rapidly rising, the results released on Tuesday, come at a critical time for parents of young children. According to the NHTSA, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14 years old. Additionally, some 33 children died in 2011 due to heatstroke or “hypothermia,” the medical term for diagnosis. The products examined by the NHTSA and CHOP in the study were advertised to help parents remember children accidentally left behind in a parked vehicle.
“Everything we know about child heatstroke in motor vehicles is that this can happen to anyone from any walk of life – and the majority of these cases are accidental tragedies that can strike even the most loving and conscientious parents,” said NHTSA Administrator David L. Strickland. “While many of these products are well intended, we cannot recommend parents and caregivers rely on technology to prevent these events from occurring.”
According to the study, the products on the market today had a wide range of limitations including inconsistencies in arming sensitivity, warning signal distances varied and there was the potential for interference with notification signals due to interference from other electronic devices.
Other factors that affected performance included the fact that the system could malfunction if a beverage were potentially spilled on it or if a child slumped over and fell asleep, the alarm could disarm if they were no longer in the upright position. Also, the products could not account for the 20-40 percent of children who gain access to a vehicle without an adult present.
The NHTSA and CHP evaluated devices including the Suddenly Safe Pressure Pad, the ChildMinder Smart Clip System and the ChildMinder Smart Pad. They found that these devices required frequent adjustment of the child’s position in order to function correctly. The devices also experienced continual synching and un-synching.
“Indeed new technology may eventually help save children’s lives, however, parents must be diligent and find a system that works for them until these ideas are perfected,” said Attorney West Seegmiller, founder of the Seegmiller Law Firm. “Parents must take consider preventative steps to avoid this kind of tragedy.”
Officials at NHTSA and CHOP reinforce the idea that small measures can save a life. They suggest doing things that serve as a reminder that a child is in a vehicle like leaving cell phones in the backseat. To prevent heatstroke incidents from occurring parents should never leave a child unattended in a vehicle and make a habit of looking in the vehicle before locking the door. If a child is in distress due to heat, the NHTSA recommends cooling the child with water after removing them from the vehicle as quickly as possible
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