hot car deaths children
A representative picture of a baby sleeping in a car. stock

There’s an average of 37 hot car deaths of U.S. children each year. As temperatures rise across the country for the summer, parents should be aware that they are not immune from forgetting their child is traveling in the back seat of their car — as unimaginable as that might seem. Some new apps and devices are aimed at helping to prevent these tragic incidents.

A baby’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s, since their ability to cool through sweating is not as developed, Purnima Unni, the Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, told International Business Times. Babies are more susceptible and at higher risk for heat-related illness and injury than adults, she said. A child dies when his or her body temperature is at 107.

Technology To Prevent Hot Car Deaths

Technology could make a difference in curbing hot car deaths among children, including apps designed to help alert parents when their child is in the back seat. GPS app Waze has a safety feature called Child Reminder, which allows users to write a custom message that is shown on your smartphone when you arrive at your destination. Another app that can be used to remind parents to check the back seat is ChildOnBoard, which was developed by a pediatrician in 2015. The app uses the smartphone’s location and senses when the user leaves home, or another location, and monitors the trip. When the car stops for a certain amount of time, the app sends an alert to the user’s device reminding them to check the back seat.

The 2017 GMC Acadia and the Buick LaCrosse come with a Rear Seat Reminder1 feature, which alerts drivers to check the rear seat after the car is turned off if the rear door has been opened within 10 minutes of starting the vehicle.

“Acadia’s Rear Seat Reminder is a simple feature designed to do exactly what its name suggests,” John Capp, director of General Motors’ Global Vehicle Safety Group, said in a statement last year. “While it does not detect the presence of rear-seat passengers or child seats, under certain conditions it can provide a simple, extra reminder to drivers to take another look inside their vehicle.”

EvenFlo developed a car seat called Embrace, which comes with SensorSafe technology. The car seat, priced at $150, emits a series of tones when the car is turned off to remind parents that a child is in the car seat.

There are also devices that can help remind parents to check on their child when leaving a car, like Elepho’s eClip. The small device is clipped onto a child’s car seat and is equipped with bluetooth technology which is paired with the device’s app. The eClip alerts parents if a child has been left in the car when the parent moves 15 feet away from the car without confirming that the child has been taken out of the vehicle. The eClip also comes with sensitive temperature sensors which allows the driver to know the temperature at the rear of the car. In case a parent forgets to turn on the eClip, the app will automatically notify the parent of no connection when the app is opened.

“[The] Concept came about after hearing year after year of unnecessary hot car events although various attempts have been made to reduce the annual number of incidents,” Elepho CEO Michael Braunold told IBT. “Elepho’s approach is different since we’re using a Smartphone with a dedicated app along with a device to be placed within the car as a stand-alone item.”

The device currently has a kickstarter campaign and has reached 95 percent of its goal. Braunold says commercial sales of the eClip may start towards the end of this year. He also said the next step would be to incorporate the technology within baby car seats “so every baby car seat becomes ‘smart’ and is automatically linked to the parent or caregiver’s Smartphone via a dedicated app.”

Tech breakthoughs aside, the organization Safe Kids encourages parents and caregivers to curb heatstroke deaths by remembering to ACT.

“We are urging everyone to ACT: A void hyperthermia-related deaths by never leaving your child alone in a car and always locking doors and trunks; C reate reminders and habits for you and your child’s caregivers to ensure you don’t forget your child; and T ake action if you see a child unattended in a vehicle by immediately calling 911,” said President and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide Kate Carr in a statement in 2012.

Hot Car Death Statistics

Since 1998, 712 children left in cars have died of heatstroke in the U.S., according to data from Last year alone there were 39 fatalities, and 12 so far in 2017.

“Clearly the data shows that we were above the average in 2016,” said Unni. “Unfortunately, this year we are have already had 12 deaths and summer has just started.”

Also, keeping a window open and parking in the shade won’t keep passengers safe from the heat.

Even when the temperature outside is 60 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 110 degrees.

Reasons Why Parents Could Forget Their Child In A Car

“Many people are surprised to learn how hot the inside of a car can actually get,” said Unni. “On an 90-degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and keep getting hotter with each passing minute.”

There are various reasons why parents can forget their child, and it can happen to anyone.

“Many people assume this is happening to bad parents or that this could never happen to them but that is not the reality,” Unni said. “We all lead very busy lives and this is a tragedy that could happen to any family.”

Even changing your routine (for example, if you don’t usually pick up your child at the daycare center) can make parents forget their child is in the backseat.

“You go straight to work on auto-pilot, completely forgetting that your child is with you in the backseat,” said Unni. “A change in your usual routine can be a big factor here. If the child is quiet in the backseat and has fallen asleep in their car seat there is no visual information or cue to remind you that there is a child to drop off.”

However, there are some ways parents can avoid forgetting their child when getting out of the car.

“I would like to remind parents that no time is an acceptable time to leave their child unattended in a car,” Unni said.