Alarming news: New device to "remind" parents that baby's in the back seat

Several days ago, I read this terrible, gut-wrenching article about a three-year-old left in a vehicle by his mother, who apparently rushed off to work, at a hospital of all places, forgetting about her son in the back seat. He had been in his car seat, asleep, and then he woke up, tried to get out, couldn't, and because this was in Houston and in 90 degree heat, the inevitable occurred.

It's sickening, and I'm mad, and I'm not completely furious at the parents of these kids because, to a point, I get it. We live in a crazy, stressed out world, and some parents have it worse than others, and I don't feel like I can truly judge people whose lives I have no insight into. I'm saying that in part because I'm assuming they're distraught beyond belief and so why pile onto their guilt?

But I am mad, even if at no one in particular, and if you read enough of these stories (and every time I do, I wonder why I continue reading after the grim headline), you will start to sense a trend. Just about every kid who dies in a hot car really isn't in a car -- they're usually in a mini-van, SUV or a truck. In other words, a more spacious vehicle where it really is easier to forget that there is a small, vulnerable person traveling with you. I could link up to a lot of terrible recent stories from the last few years and show you what vehicles parents were driving, but that's gruesome and not the point of this post. When I started writing this a few paragraphs ago, I thought, "Boy, there have to be some ways you can prevent this..."

And figuring that there were probably several gadgets on the market, like alarms and special locks that won't let parents leave the car until they reach back and unbuckle their child from their seat, I started looking online. As it turned out, I only found one such gadget.

So if you're worried that you might have a lifestyle and drive the type of vehicle where you could conceivably one day go on automatic pilot, forget to stop at your daycare provider or preschool, and instead drive onto work -- or if you can envision running numerous errands one weekend and forgetting that you've brought your child along -- then I'd seriously consider buying...

...The Child Minder system from Baby Alert International, and kudos to this company for creating this and other baby safety devices. I can only hope that because of it, I can read about fewer tragedies in the papers. And no, I'm not a paid spokesman for the company. I just suddenly sound like one.

This gadget, which retails for $59.95, seems pretty ingenuous. You have what they call a "smart clip" on the car seat's seat belt, which communicates with the key ring alarm unit attached to your car keys. If you move 15 feet or more from your vehicle, and the seat belt is still fastened with your son or daughter in it -- an alarm will sound within six seconds. It sure seems like a good device, and even if it somehow didn't work properly on occasion, I would think that just the act of installing the device might help sharpen any parent's safety sensors when it comes to dashing out of your car without thinking.

One can hope.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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