Unattended Child Reminder Systems

WHEREAS heatstroke is the number one cause of non-crash vehicle related deaths for children under age 14,

WHEREAS the thermal regulation physiological characteristics for children are different than for adults,

WHEREAS children and infants are typically unable to exit a car seat or the vehicle without assistance,

WHEREAS heat stress, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and other thermal injuries can occur in short periods of time,

Adopted 2019

BE IT RESOLVED, the United States and all countries should encourage the development and widespread use of unattended child reminder systems and associated technology to reduce the occurrence of heat stress, heat exhaustion, heatstroke and other thermal injuries to children in vehicles.

Rationale & Background Information

  • Heatstroke related fatalities occur to children left in motor vehicles. Heatstroke related child fatalities occurred in the United States on average 38 times each year since 1998 (Aiello, 2014). A similar review has found 794 fatalities have occurred since 1998 and 51 deaths were documented in 2018 (noheatstroke.org). While less frequent than crash fatalities, virtually all of these deaths are preventable.
  • In about three-fourths of these tragedies, the children were left in the vehicle by adults. One study found 27% of heat related pediatric deaths occurred when children gained access to unlocked vehicles, and 73% of the cases were when children were left by adults (Guard, 2005). While about half of the children left by adults were forgotten, the others were left for what was intended to be a short/safe time period.
  • Dangerous temperature levels can be reached in vehicles quickly. Research has shown that cars can reach injurious and lethal temperature levels quickly. Previous modeling efforts have calculated, for example, that in Austin, Texas, in August, an infant could suffer from heat stroke within 105 minutes and death within 125 minutes of being left in a closed vehicle. In the winter, an infant left in a vehicle at 8:00 am could reach temperatures to cause heat stroke and death before 2:00 pm (Grundstein, 2014). Even at relatively cool ambient temperatures the rate of temperature rise in the vehicle was not significantly different from the rate at higher ambient temperatures and reached 117 degrees F (McClaren, 2005).
  • Technologies to address this issue have begun to be offered in the marketplace, but there is no mandate for their use. Systems range from reminders, such as bracelets, to weight sensing child restraints and comprehensive vehicle systems integrated into the Internet of Things (IoT – the concept of Internet-connected devices).
  • Currently there are no government or industry standards for device performance and reliability. Consensus methods need to be developed to evaluate these prevention devices for accuracy and reliability and these methods should be incorporated into relevant standards.
  • Further progress is needed to prevent injury and death in children forgotten and left behind in motor vehicles. While new technologies are being brought to market, child reminder and heatstroke prevention systems in vehicles have previously been documented to have inconsistent and unreliable performance (Rudd, 2015; Arbogast, 2012). AAAM shares NHTSA’s goal that unattended child reminder systems would ideally incorporate the following features:
  • No effect on child restraint crash performance
  • Minimal additional action from the driver/parent/user to operate following initial installation;
  • Provide feedback to the user to confirm functionality;
  • Provide an end-of-trip convenience reminder and a left-behind alert;
  • Incorporate fail-safe features; and
  • Include robust operating capabilities – battery life, temperature range, appropriate child size, etc.

(7) Ongoing research is needed to understand nature of the problem and drive development and verification of effective interventions. These activities include:

  • Enhanced data collection regarding the scope of this problem through incident investigation and sharing of databases such as the one maintained by Golden Gate Weather at https://www.noheatstroke.org/
  • Development of effective education and advocacy strategies that will complement the technology.
  • Research to understand and mitigate for child caregiver behavior which causes or contributes to this issue.

REFERENCES

Aiello, V., Borazjani, P., Battista, E., Albanese, M. (2014). Next-Generation Technologies for Preventing Accidental Death of Children Trapped in Parked Vehicles. IEEE IRI 2014, August 13-15, 2014 San Francisco, California, USA, 978-1-4799-5880-1/14/

Rudd, R., Prasad, A., Weston, D., & Wietholter, K. (July 2015). Functional assessment of unattended child reminder systems. (Report No. DOT HS 812 187). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Arbogast, K., Belwadi, A, Allison, M. (July 2012). Reducing the Potential for Heat Stroke to Children in Parked Motor Vehicles: Evaluation of Reminder Technology. (Report No. DOT HS 811 632). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Thomas, E. Evenflo SensorSafe Car Seat Alerts Parents to Presence of Child Still in the Car. Consumer Reports at https://www.consumerreports.org/car-seats/evenflo-sensorsafe-car-seat-alerts-parents-to-presence-of-child-in-car/, Accessed on 8/7/2018

Guard, S, Gallager, S., Heat related deaths to young children in parked cars: analysis of 171 fatalities in the United States, 1995–2002. Injury Prevention. 2005; 11:33-37. doi: 10.1136/ip.2003.004044

Grundstein, A, Duzinski, S, Dolinak, D, Null, J, Iyer, S. Evaluating infant core temperature response in a hot car using a heat balance model. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2014; DOI 10.1007/s12024-014-9619-7

McClaren, C, Null, J, Quinn, J, Heat Stress From Enclosed vehicles: Moderate Ambient Temperatures Cause Significant Temperature Rise in Enclosed Vehicles. Pediatrics 2005 Vol 116; 109

Khamil, K, Rahman, S, Gambilok, M. Babycare Alert System for Prevention of Child Left in a Parked Vehicle. ARPN Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences. 2015; 10:22. ISSN 1819-6608

No Heatstroke website at http://noheatstroke.org/Heatstroke_Trends_2018.pdf, accessed 2/14/19