Study: Aftermarket Devices Not Preventing Child Deaths in Hot Cars

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle-related deaths among children under 14, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a new study has found that aftermarket products designed to prevent kids from accidentally being left in a hot car aren't working.

NHTSA and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia joined forces to test several monitoring products that connect to a child-safety seat. The systems, which alert parents that they may have unintentionally left a child in a parked vehicle, are unreliable in preventing heatstroke, the study found.

The products range from weight- and force-sensing pads placed in the child seat to temperature-sensitive clips attached to the seat. The study took issue with what it calls “reminder technology” systems for a variety of problems, including inconsistent signal strength, interference from other electronic devices, susceptibility to spill damage and the device becoming disarmed by a slumping or mis-positioned child.

"The devices require considerable effort from the parent/caregiver to ensure smooth operation, and often that operation is not consistent," the study says. Since the products are child restraint-based, they can’t help the 20% to 40% of children who are killed after they sneak into a hot car to play, the study found.

According to NHTSA, 527 kids have died in hot cars since 1998, and the agency says it can happen to anyone. "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," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement. "While many of these products are well-intended, we cannot recommend parents and caregivers rely on technology to prevent these events from occurring."

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By Jennifer Geiger | July 31, 2012 | Comments (9)


I love reading all your articles, keep up the good work....well done.
Manchester Garage

While I don't think leaving a baby in a car happens often, when it does it can result in tragedy. Preying upon parents (or grandparents) fears is a bit unseemly. Even if these devices worked in the exact scenario for which they were designed they might not prevent death. These tragic accidents happen because of a driver being tired or distracted. A false sense of security is not the solution.


seriously? if you need a reminder to let you know you forgot your child then you should'nt have a child.


Well, the numbers show that it happens, Lisa. Should we not take this seriously?


Having worked at AAA roadside assistance I can attest to the things that tired parents do with their kids. The numbers proving the need are just the ones that are recorded properly. I can guarantee you there are more.


Even though this does happen, I have to agree with Lisa. You put them in the car. You can see them in the rear view mirror. It's not like forgetting your keys, it's your child.


I'm a paramedic and can attest to poor parenting as well. Why do we continue to excuse the actions of these people. If you are unable to remember your child in your car, you prove how incompetent you are. We excuse stupidity in this country and children, the elderly and those with special needs suffer. The fact you provide half the DNA to another human being should be enough of a device to remember to get your child out of the car.


If you understand how it happens, then you'll understand that it can happen to anyone. Steve has the definitive link:

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