NHTSA roundtable: Can technology help prevent children's deaths in hot cars?

With scorching summer temperatures and several hyperthermia-related child deaths across the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is exploring ways to prevent child fatalities in hot cars.

The key question appears to be: Can automotive technology help prevent those kinds of deaths?

“Every life is sacred and precious and we do our best to fulfill our mission to reduce fatalities and injuries due to roadway crashes, but there is nothing that frankly is more heartbreaking, more terrifying or more psychologically damaging than losing a young child,” NHTSA chief David Strickland said at a roundtable discussion Tuesday in Washington.

According to the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, 38 children, ages 14 and under, die on average each year in the United States as a result of excessive heat after being left in vehicles. Since the university began conducting research in 1998, there have been 513 child deaths from hyperthermia in vehicles. In 2010, the death count peaked at 43. This year the university has recorded 21 such deaths.

San Francisco State University Professor Jan Null, who conducted the research, was among the many advocates, auto industry representatives and relatives of victims at the roundtable meeting.

Null, who has worked with General Motors to spread awareness of vehicular hyperthermia, said the deaths show how quickly enclosed vehicles heat up.

“Cars get very hot, very fast,” he said. “In the first 10 minutes alone, the temperature rises 19 degrees above whatever the outside air temperature is.”

Interior color

Null also said a vehicle’s interior color plays a substantial role. His data showed that a vehicle with a darker interior color had a substantially higher inside temperature than one with a lighter color.

Roundtable participants, including Dr. Kristy Arbogast, director of engineering at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, discussed whether technology might help find a solution to the problem. Arbogast announced that her hospital is conducting research on the effectiveness of aftermarket products designed to remind a caregiver that a child is still in the car.

“In collaboration with two partners at Ohio State University, we are going to evaluate currently available technologies that are designed to prevent children from being left in enclosed vehicles,” Arbogast said.

Studying technology

She said the study will examine how effectively the technology detects the child, alerts the caregiver and influences the caregiver’s behavior.

However, Michael Cammisa, director of safety for the Association of Global Automakers, said public education campaigns could be more effective given that devices such as vehicle alert systems, which aim to draw attention to a child left in a vehicle, could have “unintended consequences”.

“We’ve had some discussions about technology solutions, but we recognize their limitations trying to address all the different circumstances,” Cammisa said.

Strickland said that although technology could be a solution down the road, NHTSA will host more roundtable discussions to promote awareness immediately. The other roundtables, which he expects to begin in August, will be held in Illinois, Texas, Arizona and other places.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110727/OEM06/110729864/1143#ixzz1TeK3EMtL

All This Just To Take The Place Of Responsible Parents.

Stupid parents will just come up with another way to kill, maim, or trash their offspring and it will probably be in one of many ways that record no statistics as they do with kids frying in cars.

Not everybody should have children.


With the electronic and programming technology available now it would be a simple matter to make a program that lowers the windows a few inches when the interior temperature of a vehicle reaches a critical temperature. This could be set up as a selection similar to Traction Control that is on or off as the driver chooses. In this case, the driver could choose something with attention gathering words such as “Dangerous Interior Temperature Limiter” with On or Off as a selection or even make it no selection that would lower the windows a small amount to preclude breakins yet let in fresh air. If this did not work with windows lowered or not as intended and a baby was lost, then the liability would be transferred from the negligent parent to the vehicle company. In this instance and if my prognostications are correct, the legal profession is responsible in part for infant deaths in weather overheated vehicles.

Simple solution: take the child with you and be “burdened” rather than leaving your child locked in your car. These same people leaving their kids in the car would probably take their laptop, digital camera, or chocolate bar with them so they don’t get damaged by the heat. Why do people need artificial intelligence to counteract their natural stupidity? And furthermore, why are these people allowed to procreate?

Another thought: the automakers probably want no part in integrating this type of feature into their cars because it will not prevent all deaths all the time, and people would be suing them because they left their child locked in a car with a feature that is supposed to attempt to counteract extremely high interior temperatures, the system did what it was designed to do, and their child still died because it was a hundred degrees in the shade and humid. No automaker wants to deal with frivolous lawsuits from idiots.

Technology can not fix stupid.

They are so many strict tests and qualifications to meet before one can adopt a child, but not much qualification goes in being a biologic parent, but I digress.

I think the car has to have a warning system for the driver to be the “ship captain”, if you are leaving and there are other occupants in the car something would buzz. Now if you want to ignore it then its your call.

Amen to twotone. “Technology cannot fix stupid”. Being an egg or sperm donor does not a parent make.

This tragedy happens all too often around here. I get the feeling that many of you think this occurs because the parent left the child in the car on purpose because they thought they would be gone for only a minute or two. That has happened, but it is extremely rare.

Daycare vans used to be the number 1 reason for this type of child death. Very strict rules for child tracking are now in place and that has made this an exception now. It has saved many lives.

The issue now is when a parents schedule is upset. For example, mom usually drops the baby off at day care, but this morning, mom can’t take the kid so it is put in the back seat, in a proper child seat, of dads car and dad forgets. Baby falls asleep and dad gets into his normal routine and forgets the baby.

Maybe if the child seat had a pressure sensor, or if the seatbelt in the child seat is buckled and the seat senses a temp above xx°, it sets off an alarm or dials preprogrammed cell phone numbers, sends texts and if the pressure is not removed or the buckle unfastened in 1 minute, it calls 911 and sends GPS data. If onstar equipped, maybe onstar could roll down all the windows and unlock the doors.

Yes, that would be a costly child seat, but what is a child’s life worth?

Heat is only one danger.

The child could fall, choke, or be kidnapped.

Maybe a year ago…I was driving on I-93 heading to work…It’s in the winter…so it’s cold out and I had my windows up…I could hear this jerk’s stereo from almost 1/4 quarter mile away. As he passed me doing about 90…I could barely hear my own stereo (remember both our windows are closed because it’s cold outside). And I look in his car as he passes…and there are two kids in car seats in the back. Those kids will be deaf by the time their 5 (if they weren’t already).

Mike, when I lived in Litchfield there was a guy a few houses down from me that played his home stereo like that. Both of his children grew to be hearing impaired.

It’s like has already been stated; you can’t legislate stupid away.

I do agree with public education campaigns.

Reminds me of a woman who passed me in her pickup with a toddler standing up in the seat and a yellow caution “Baby Onboard” sign hanging in the rear window. She thinks its my responsibility to watch out for her child and her driving.

Baby on board:
“You know what these morons are actually saying don’t you? ‘We know you’re a crappy driver most of the time, but because our children are nearby we expect you to straighten up for a little while’. You know what I do? I run 'em into a utility pole, a tree; bounce that kid around a little bit, let that kid grow up with a little sense of reality…”

-George Carlin

…or it’s as if the rest of us are thinking, “you know, I would really like to smash into that car, but I don’t want to hurt the baby!”

It’s like has already been stated; you can’t legislate stupid away.

No you can’t legislate stupid away…but you CAN and SHOULD stop the act if you see it…A 17yo kid doing 100mph is definitely STUPID and SHOULD be stopped.

I agree. And in the case of very young children (or animals) left in hot cars, the police should be called immediately. Frankly, if I saw a vehicle cruising along with a child standing up in the seat I’d probably call too, but the cops don’t usually get too enthusiastic about responding to complaints of that sort on moving vehicles. Too often they spend too much time finding the moving vehicle and too often they find it too late to do anything about it.

"PhillipNeuman July 31 Report
Heat is only one danger.
The child could fall, choke, or be kidnapped.

The list is endless and that’s the problem with irresponsible “parents.”

I was in a store once and a father was purchasing several “hunter orange” hunting hats. In a friendly discussion with the clerk he commented that he was buy them as a clever solution to the problem he had. He explained, “My kids play out on the highway all the time.”

Today on my police/fire/emergency scanner I heard a call to law enforcement that unsupervised young kids, riding bicycles along the shoulder of a highway, would wait for cars to come by and then at the last second, swerve in front of them to make the cars veer. It was called in by a shaken driver who had just swerved to avoid hitting them and who had witnessed their game.


would wait for cars to come by and then at the last second, swerve in front of them to make the cars veer.

I wonder if this is becoming a new idiot kid fad. I’ve had that happen to me a couple of times this summer.

CSA - At that point child welfare services should step in and remove the children from this stupid parent…