In the middle of summer and with potentially many days left of high heat across the country, parents are being warned that aftermarket devices designed to protect kids by alerting caregivers they’ve been left in hot vehicles may not be reliable.
The warning comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which put out a notice on its website today. The cautions come following research from the NHTSA and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) on 18 different systems, including 11 that are currently for sale. This preliminary assessment is the first of its kind.
According to the study, “currently available products are limited in their effectiveness and are unreliable as a standalone preventative measure for addressing child heatstroke tragedies.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Public education is the best way to help parents and caregivers prevent tragic accidents and keep their children safe.”
Heatstroke has claimed the lives of 527 children since 1998, with an average of 38 children dying annually.
What’s wrong with the aftermarket devices? According to NHTSA and CHOP, among the range of limitations are “inconsistencies in arming sensitivity; variations in warning signal distance; potential interference with the devices’ notification signals from other electronic devices; susceptibility of the systems for misuse scenarios involving spilled liquid beverages; and disarming of the devices due to a slumping or otherwise out-of-position child.”
The research also stated that the devices, which often require extensive knowledge to set up, monitor and operate, could give parents a false sense of security. These technologies do not address the 20 to 40 percent of children who are killed because they gain access to vehicles when an adult is not present or the children are not in child restraints – since these technologies are child restraint based.
NHTSA urges parents to never leave a child in an unattended vehicle – not even for a few minutes with the engine running and the air conditioner on. Other recommendations, part of the agency’s “Where’s baby? Look before you lock” campaign, include:
- Leave an item that you need in the back seat as a reminder to check to see if a child is sitting there.
- Ask childcare providers to call designated numbers if a child doesn’t show up as expected.
- Always lock a car front and back before walking away.
- Teach children never to play in or around vehicles – and store car keys well out of sight and reach of children.
The full report from the CHOP is available here.