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Study says child safety warning systems unreliable

A preliminary assessment of technology devices meant to help prevent children from being left in hot cars has found that the systems are unreliable and have limited effectiveness.


A new study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has found that technology devices meant to prevent children from being unintentionally left in a hot car are neither reliable nor effective.

The leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under age 14 is heatstroke. Last year, 33 children died after being left in a hot car. Several products have been introduced to the market to reduce these incidents for the most vulnerable child group, those under age 2. Most work by sensing a child in their restraining seat and alerting the caregiver with an audible warning when they are left in the car.

The study found, however, that these devices were unreliable in detecting the presence of a child, would often lose synchronization between the safety system and the keyfob notifier, had large variations in distance required to activate, and could sometimes interfere with other electronics systems in the car. Most are difficult to install and were not waterproof.

The study concludes that while the devices are well-intentioned, they are not effective. The NHTSA urges parents and caregivers to stay aware of the presence of children in the car and take responsibility for their well being through its Where's Baby? Look before you lock campaign.

Some basic tips they offer for keeping children safe in the vehicle:

+Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute. In addition to being dangerous, it is against the law in many states.
+Check the car to make sure that all occupants leave the vehicle or are carried out when unloading. If you lock the door with a key, rather than with a remote, it would force that one last look in the car before leaving it.
+Always lock your car and keep keys and remotes away from children.
+Keep a stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a reminder of a child in the backseat.
+Place something in the backseat that you would need, such as a purse, briefcase or cell phone.
+Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up.
+If you see a child alone in a car, especially if they seem hot, call 911 immediately to help get them out.

See for more information on automotive child safety.