New Alert System Prevents Kids from Being Left Out in the Cold

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Madeleine Jones
February 7, 2018

baby sleeping in a car seat, injury lawyerAuto manufacturers have developed a new radio-based auto sensor that detects the presence of an unattended child left in a car and sends warning alerts to parents. The auto technology system, VitaSense, helps protect children from vehicular heatstroke and cold exposure. If your loved one has been seriously injured due to negligence, call an experienced Las Vegas injury attorney at Cogburn Law Offices today for a free case consultation.

Vehicular Heatstroke and Hypothermia Protection for Kids

VitaSense technology uses low-power radio frequencies to sense movement and breathing in a car. The technology is sensitive enough to detect breathing or movement of new-born infants, even when they are sleeping in a rear-facing car seat. If VitaSense detects a child in the car after the vehicle has been turned off, it alerts the driver by sending a series of signals including flashing lights, beeps, and messages to cell phones and computers.

Some auto manufacturers including Nissan, General Motors and Hyundai have voluntarily developed some types of warning systems that address protection for children. Nissan and General Motors have sensor technologies that analyze door sequencing to remind a driver that a child is in the back seat. If the rear door is opened before the car is started, but not opened after the car is turned off, a warning alert goes off. A variety of GM 2017 models have standard detection systems, and it is offered on many 2018 models. The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder is equipped with a detection system, and it will be available on other models in the near future.

Child deaths from vehicular heatstroke were first recorded in 1990. Since then, over 800 children have died in the U.S. after being left in parked cars during hot weather. In 2017, 41 children died in the U.S. Even minutes in a hot car can be too long. The interior temperature of a closed vehicle in hot weather can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit in just 15 minutes, and a child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult’s body. Children have died from vehicular heatstroke in temperatures as low as 60 degrees.

Cold weather can be just as dangerous. Hypothermia occurs when a child’s body drops to under 95 degrees. Since kids have smaller body mass, they can develop hypothermia more quickly than adults. Dangerously low body temperatures can occur in a matter of minutes. From 1999 to 2011, exposure to natural extreme cold temperatures was involved in the deaths of about 1,300 people per year.

Many extreme temperature deaths are caused by parents forgetting that the children are in the car. Often all it takes is a change in a parent’s daily routine. When a child is in a car seat in the back seat of a car, they are somewhat out of sight. Any distraction for a rushing parent can contribute to forgetting the child.

Prevention and Safety Measures

Recently, a House bill passed that requires new cars to include a device for detecting children in the back seat, but the Senate version of the bill includes an amendment that is receiving opposition. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the leading auto industry trade group, is concerned that the installation of these detection systems in vehicles could take years to implement, while vehicular heatstroke and cold exposure deaths for children are rising.

Safety officials and organizations urge parents and caregivers to follow some simple safety measures to prevent the possibility of vehicular heatstroke for children. Since many of these tragedies are caused by distractions and forgetfulness, injuries and fatalities can be prevented by taking proactive steps:

  • Create some type of reminder to check the back seat before getting out of the car. Rear-facing car seats placed in the back seat of a car can hide infants and small children.
  • Don’t leave children unattended while inside or around the car, even for a few minutes. Many cases of vehicular heatstroke occur when children crawl into an open car with no one around.
  • Always keep vehicles locked, even when they are parked in an attached garage or driveway right in front of the house.
  • Keep all car keys and remote door openers away from small children who may mimic a parent’s behavior by opening the car.
  • If a child can’t be located, check the car’s interior, as well as the trunk’s interior, even if they are locked. Children often lock car doors from the inside but have difficulty unlocking them to get out.

Vehicular heatstroke and hypothermia deaths affect hundreds of families every year. All parents are at risk of forgetting a child in the back seat of a car under certain conditions, so safety prevention measures are essential.