Every summer, local news is plagued with the most tragic stories about children dying in hot cars. It can happen quickly and even with the most attentive parents, which is why this dad's app to prevent hot car deaths is such a good idea. It's very simple to use and could prevent unnecessary child deaths.
According to NoHeatStroke.org, 37 children under the age of 14 years old die from being left in a hot car. Already in 2018, 13 kids have died. It's easy to judge from afar, but it's really common. According to People, it's often something as simple as a change of routine, like a mom taking a toddler to day care instead of their partner, and then absentmindedly heading to work and forgetting that their child is sleeping in the backseat.
A car, with the engine off, will heat up 10 degrees in just five minutes, according to NoHeatStroke.org. That means that in just an hour, it could be 123 degrees, causing heat stroke, according to NoHeatStroke.org. Luckily, there are tons of new apps that can help parents and caretakers prevent it from happening.
Erin O'Connor is an Arizona dad who created "The Backseat," because he couldn't take seeing anymore kids dying in hot cars on the news. "It bothered me so deeply, I had to do something," he told Phoenix NBC affiliate KPNX.
The app is free for both Apple and Android phones and takes about 15 minutes to set up. Once you set it up, though, everything happens automatically, so you don't have to remember yet another thing before turning the key in the ignition, which would totally defeat the purpose.
As you start to drive, according to the app's website, The Backseat app detects your speed and recognizes when your trip is over. Once it does, it sends constant alerts and reminders to check the backseat for a child. The alerts get louder and more frequent, even overriding your phone's silent function, until you type in a personal code to verify your kids are out. It basically drives you up the wall until you let it know that all your children are out of the car, which is worth it.
It's easy to judge people for forgetting their kids, but it sadly happens all too frequently, and most of the time, it's totally unintentional.
Some doctors call it "Forgotten Baby Syndrome," according to NBC News. Our brains are wired certain ways, but we all make plans that we don't complete sometimes. If there's a habit or a schedule, and your child is quiet and out of sight, anyone can forget where their kid is or swear that they stopped at the daycare, for example, on the way to work. The brain fills in the gaps. Dr. David Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, told NBC News:
What I try to get across to people is it’s not about the importance of the item. It’s about a dynamic brain system that can take things as trivial as a cup I left on my car. And it goes to tragic memory failures such as leaving dogs in cars and leaving children in cars.
The reason this is so important is because parents just can’t wrap their head around the fact that this could happen to them. They think, "How could I forget them? They’re the most important thing in my life." To prevent this from happening there has to be something automatic.
Something like The Backseat app could help, as could other prevention technology on the market. You can also do something as simple as leave your purse or cellphone in the backseat when you strap your baby in so you give yourself another reason to remember to look in the back. Or check in with anyone driving your kid to school or camp and make sure you have an absentee plan in place with any childcare organization, so that if someone isn't dropped off, you are alerted right away.
The House of Representatives passed the Hot Cars Act of 2017 last year, according to The Washington Post, and just needs the Senate to vote on it. The bill would require all cars to have some sort of technology that would alert passengers if someone was left in the car. There is already technology to alert people if the gas cover is open, if keys are in the ignition, or a seatbelt isn't secured, so it shouldn't be too difficult to be able to sense if a human being left behind.
Until all cars have technology to prevent hot car deaths, apps like The Backseat are more than necessary and it certainly doesn't hurt to give it a try. Because the reality is that this type of accident can happen to anyone.