Texas Baby dies in Hot Car; What can we do about it?

As an aunt to a six and four-year-old, LING was saddened to hear of the death of another child left in a hot car. She wonders if there’s anything she can do to avoid it happening to her family.

Six-month-old Dillon Martinez was left in an SUV, parked at a Wal-Mart, for almost nine hours, last Friday. His father had gone to work in the store, having forgotten to drop him off at day care, and returned to find him dead.

This is not the first time we’ve heard of a tragedy like this, and it will not be the last. While many would be quick to blame the parent, those who have to juggle work and family would know that, excuse the language, sh*t happens. I’ve only had to babysit my niece and nephew for a few hours at a time, and even I have had my share of mishaps. Most of the time, we get away with it, but sometimes, horrible tragedies like this happens.

About 30 child deaths in hot cars occur each year in the United States. A neuroscientist from the University of South Florida, Dr. David Diamond, calls it “forgotten baby syndrome”. Diamond explains that our brains have a “habit memory”, linked to acts performed daily and have become second nature, and a “prospective memory”, preparation for future acts or tasks. Sometimes, our habit memory overrules prospective memory, making us think we have completed the “task”.  So, a parent who is not usually the person who sends the child to daycare could very easily “forget”.

On occasion I’ve had to chauffeur the two monkeys around, so I leave the child lock on both rear doors activated all the time. Absent-minded as I am, I don’t want to ever regret forgetting to activate them one day, and that day would be when one of them accidentally opens the door while the car is in motion. But what if, on one unfortunate day, I might forget I had them in the car with me at all? The weather in Malaysia is hot or hotter, so it is a situation I shudder to imagine.

With the technology that we have now, there must be something that can help us. It turns out that there are:


1) Sensor Pad

The ChildMinder Elite Pad slips under the cushion of the child’s car seat, while a separate key fob is attached to your car keys. The alarm in the key fob will activate if it is more than 15 feet from the vehicle while the child is still seated on the pad. Retails for USD74.95. Read more here.


2) Mobile App

The Kars 4 Kids Safety app connects to the vehicle’s bluetooth and sounds an alarm when disconnected. Available on Google Play, and has received generally good reviews with some negative ones from parents who felt it didn’t help them (eg. they don’t have bluetooth in the car, the volume has to be turned up to an audible level to hear the alarm, etc). The app is free, so it is worth trying out to see if it works for you.


3) Car Seat with In-built Sensor

Evenflo offers child car seats that has a smart chest clip remotely linked to a wireless receiver, which is plugged into the car’s On-Board Diagnostics port. The system is activated within 30 seconds of driving at least 5mph. When the car arrives at the destination and is turned off, a tone will be emitted from the wireless receiver to remind the driver that the child is still in the car.

Find out more here.

4) Standard Car Feature

General Motors introduced the Rear Seat Reminder as a standard feature in the 2017 GMC Acadia. The system activates when the car detects any of the back doors being opened and closed 10 minutes before the engine starts or while it is running; when the engine is shut off, a chime sounds and a message appears on the display to remind the driver to look in the rear seat.There are many similar offerings in the market today; there are bound to be one (or a few, which you could use simultaneously) that will work for you and keep your child safe.

image: mindfulmum.co.uk

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