Tuesday, July 15, 2014

50-cent solution to Car Seat Deaths

The Weather Channel has been making noise about kids left in carseats and dying from the heat ... an admirable cause, to be sure.  They had a short segment in which they talked to some people, ran a clip about some parent who forgot, and then tossed off an industry statement that "Monitoring the back seat for infants would be 'too costly'."

That is utter trash.

$0.50 and a bit of programming would knock down the rates by at least a half.

You know that beep that you get if your keys are in the ignition when you turn off the car and open the door?  It goes for maybe ten seconds and then the dome light and the beep shuts off.

Here's the Keep Your Child Alive Solution: (edited after first comment)
If the LATCH system has a seat installed, when you turn off the ignition or open the driver's door, a beeper located behind the driver (in the dome light or even further back) goes off for a few seconds. It has to be a distinctive beep and it has to come from *behind* the driver. If the LATCH system cannot have a sensor in it, then place a switch there that turns on the system when the seat is installed. Sure, someone could turn it off, but that would take a direct act.

That's all it would take. Most of these deaths are caused by harried drivers, in a rush, forgetting that their child is in the back because he immediately fell asleep and hasn't made a peep for the last thirty miles. A simple chirping noise from behind or a flashing light on the dash is all that the vast majority of these cases would need.

No child in the back carseat? So what? You still think to check.

You're getting out at the gas station? So what? You hear a chirping noise from the back and you remember he's back there. It will become instinctive for parents to hear the beep, turn and check.

All this BS with reminder cards and BESAFE lists? Useless.  It's not that parents don't care. They are forgetting that their kid is in the back - why would a checklist help?

Putting a stuffed animal in the front seat to remind you? Marginally better, until you have more than one thing in the front seat, or you forget to throw that toy in the front, or your son screams for that EXACT toy and you hand it to him ...

Hanging an air freshener from the mirror? In addition to it being illegal in most states and a bad idea to obscure your vision, this "reminder" is constantly in your field of vision and will quickly be ignored.

The car companies can put in 12 airbags that are linked to the seatbelts and pressure sensitive seat sensors, coupled with instantaneous triggering mechanisms, they have hundreds of computer chips that monitor everything about the engine, they are all furiously installing driver-distraction devices like phone and GPS screens and computer-driven window and climate controls that can't be operated safely while the car is in motion ... I think they can figure this one out, too.

Come on, car people. THINK.


  1. Infant car and toddler car seats do not employ the car's safety belts. They are mounted via the LATCH system full-time, and use their own belts only. Even on older pre-LATCH models, the car's belt is used to secure the seat, and is engaged full-time. Any system like this would require adding electronics to the infant seat and an interface to the car, and for these to communicate with each other. This would be pretty-much impossible in infant-carriers which employ a base and quick-detach seat. Utilizing a pressure sensor would be problematic, given that the weight of the child is tiny compared to the pressure applied to the seat by the LATCH mechanism. Even if you could make it work, you would have to manually program in the weight of the seat, or the car would auto-calibrate by requiring you to start the engine first, then put the kid in the seat.

    If minimal work could allow an auto manufacturer to tout a major safety feature, they would have done it.

  2. You've unnecessarily complicated this. Put the sensor in the LATCH if that's what everyone is using. Stop giving them excuses to not do a simple fix. Avoiding minimal work is exactly what the car companies do ... until someone makes fun of them for it and shames them into making things right.

  3. The auto manufacturers don't want to do it because as soon as one does NOT WORK they will be sued. It is easier to put the burden elsewhere. But, doesn't this sound familiar...?

  4. I am afraid the answer to questions 1 - 4 is: "No", or "not possible," (not until we have a democratic parliament again).website