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Dangers of Leaving Babies In Cars

Katlyn Joy | 8, August 2014


It's a horrible statistic; as of mid-July of 2014, 18 infants have died in the US after being left in a hot car.

Not long after, the public safety group, Kids and Cars, released a statement calling on US automobile manufacturers to develop technology to warn parents about children left in car seats. The group's statement brought up the fact that in our cars we have systems to alert us that we've left our headlights on, forgot to buckle up, or are running low on fuel.

"With all of these reminder systems already in place, including a warning if our headlights are left on, who has decided that it's more important not to have a dead car battery than a dead baby?" the statement continued.

There are technologies developing to address this crucial child safety issue. For instance, in New Mexico, 17-year-old Alissa Chavez, invented a warning system as a science fair project. Her invention which she calls the "Hot Seat," uses pressure sensitive technology to alert parents they've left a child behind. A sensor is placed under the child's car seat cover and communicates with the parent's key fob. When the parent is 40 feet from the vehicle, the sensor will determine whether a child is still in the seat. If not, nothing occurs. However, if no pressure exists under the seat, three alarms will sound; the car alarm, the key fob and a phone app. The car alarm will alert anyone in the area of the car that something is amiss.

Chavez got the idea when hearing of a child's death resulting from being left alone in a hot car. It was a topic close to the family's heart, as Chavez' mother runs a daycare. Her invention needs about ,000 to build a prototype.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 1998 and 2013, over 600 children died in the US after being left in a hot car.

According to Kids and Cars, the number of children dying in hot cars has risen sharply after airbags became standard in front car seats, and children have been put in the back seat as a result.

More than half of the children who die are under the age of two, and most likely fastened into a rear-facing car seat, the recommended type for children this age and size. Overall, 87 percent of those who died were under 3.

According to a fact sheet, Children Left in Cars and Heatstroke, from, "Even outside temperatures in the 60s can cause a car temperature to rise well above 110oF. When the outside temperature is 83oF, even with the window rolled down 2 inches, the temperature inside the car can reach 109o in only 15 minutes."

Despite the risks, according to an article from the NHTSA, a survey of mothers found that 25 percent of mothers surveyed admitted leaving infants alone in cars. Even more disturbing, in their fear of abduction over heatstroke, only one-third of those who leave children unsupervised in autos favor cracking or rolling the windows down at all.

A child being left in a car is only one of the dangers. According to one survey, only about half of parents state they keep their cars unlocked at home. This presents another danger with older children, who may wander into the car and become stuck or unable to open the car doors.

Heatstroke begins when the body's core temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Those elevated temps become lethal at 107 degrees.

Some tips to keep your baby and children safe:

  • Keep your car locked.
  • Look into available alarms to alert you when baby has been left behind.
  • Arrange to get an automatic check in call if baby has not been dropped off as usual at the school, daycare or sitter.
  • Keep your briefcase or purse in the backseat, but out of baby's reach.
  • Never ever leave baby unattended, even for a moment. Just running in to the house, or store, or wherever, is often a dangerous, and possibly criminal, decision.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in baby's car seat. When you buckle baby up, put the stuffed animal on the front seat beside you as a reminder that baby is still in the car.

Related Articles

Baby Crib Safety Standards

Baby Proofing Your Home

Baby Wearing Safety Guidelines From the CPSC

Baby Proofing Checklist

Is Your Baby Safe With the New Car Seat Guidelines?


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