Smartphone Apps To Prevent Child Hot Car Deaths (Gifting 1st 50)

Last updated on June 6th, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Mother Putting Baby Son Into Car Travel Seat‘Forgotten Baby Syndrome’ (FBS), or as I prefer to call it, ‘Forgotten BACKSEAT Baby Syndrome’, is a relatively new danger to child passenger safety that results in fatal child vehicular heatstroke in greater than 99 percent of cases. FBS is the leading origin of child vehicular heatstroke cases.  It was practically nonexistent prior to placement of infants and young toddlers in the backseat beginning in the late 1990s.  I now know this danger too well, having lost my first child, my soulmate, Sophia Rayne (aka “Ray Ray”), to this too often unknown and misunderstood threat to child passenger safety in May 2011, just ten days after her first birthday.  Our tale of tragedy resulting from ‘One Wrong Turn’ can be found on the Ray Ray’s Pledge website.

I learned very quickly after Ray Ray’s passing that our tragedy was in no way unique nor simply a ‘freak accident’.  According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), vehicular heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children.  To date, ‘noheatstroke.org’ reports that there have been at least 667 child vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998, most of whom were inadvertently forgotten in the backseat at less than two years of age.  The most common intended destination when they were forgotten? daycare/ babysitterRay-Ray picThirty-seven children on average die annually of vehicular heatstroke.  From the Friday kicking off Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, a child dies in a hot car every 3.5 days.  Though the deadliest months nationally are July and August, it is important to note that children have died during every month of the year, EVEN on days when it is ‘not that hot’, as the inside temperature of a car can increase by more than 40 degrees in less than an hour, half of that in the first 10 minutes, and 80 percent of that within the initial 30 minutes after shutting off the engine (source: noheatstroke.org).

By now you may have heard many child safety groups cry that “technology in automobiles” is the answer to eliminating child hot car deaths.  This battle cry annoys me as a parent of a heatstroke victim AND as a fellow vehicular heatstroke prevention warrior/ advocate.  WHY???

  1. This statement is only partially true, given that nearly 30 percent of child hot car deaths involve kids who gain access to an unlocked car and become entrapped. There is no technology on earth that will make certain 100 percent of the time that vehicle doors are always locked upon exit AND that keys/ fobs are out of reach of children without unintended consequences of inadvertently locking people/ pets INSIDE, as learned recently in the 2015 Texas Corvette entrapment case and the 2013 California BMW entrapment case.
  2. EVEN if we were to have a miraculous technology blessed by the auto industry as 100 percent reliable AND plans to install in ALL car models of the next manufacturing season, WHAT do we do in the meantime with all of the other family transport vehicles within the US fleet? Not every family with a small child can afford to purchase a new vehicle immediately.
  3. EVEN if NHTSA issued a requirement for said ‘child backseat reminder technology’ to be added as a standard feature in the US automobile fleet by a specified date, whom would enforce that regulation and what would be the penalty for failure to comply? History has shown us that enforcement of said requirements, and penalties for non-compliance, is poor at best.  For example:  the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, related to standard-feature rear-view camera requirements to avoid accidental child back-overs, was signed into law in 2008, with a deadline of 2011 for auto manufacturers to comply…what was done when the auto industry did not comply? The deadline was extended to 2018, of course!

mom-with-baby-and-smartphoneSo, as parents who are now aware of the dangers of Forgotten ‘Backseat’ Baby Syndrome (FBS), WHAT do we do in the meantime, whilst we wait for the technology of the auto industry to spare our children from the dangers of our own memory failure?  I have GREAT news!  There are technologies available TODAY, on our smartphones, which can help us to prevent the tragic loss of our babies to vehicular heatstroke due to FBS by creating childcare arrival confirmations/ absence verifications within our family safety circles, a core concept of Ray Ray’s Pledge.  Even better, these technologies are PASSIVE after the initial installation/ setup, meaning they do not rely upon you to be consistent in remembering or appropriately activating an alarm/ device each time you transport a child, a noted limitation of several post-market reminder devices as outlined in the 2012 NHTSA report on Evaluation of Reminder Technology.

Smartphone Safety Tip #1:  The basic alarm clock

Most, if not all, smartphones are equipped with pre-installed clocks whose alarms are very easy to program (many of us now use these exclusively as our wake-up alarms), AND they can alarm with sound and vibration, even if one has muted the phone sound.  I have two reminder alarms created in my phone: one that reminds me to check for my husband’s text confirming childcare drop-off at 9:45 am (within 15 minutes of the usual drop-off time); another that reminds me to confirm via text to my husband that we have arrived home and they have been removed from the car at 6:30pm each weekday—note that after the initial alarm setup with repeating schedule, these reminders are PASSIVE (ie., you don’t have to remember to set them each time you transport a child).  I urge all parents and others who transport young children to create these safety circles confirming childcare drop-off and removal from the vehicle for both regular routines, such as daycare drop-off (a high risk time of day for FBS resulting in fatal vehicular heatstroke) and weekend church/ temple arrivals, as well as for those non-routine transports where a child may be inadvertently forgotten in the backseat such as mid-day doctor/ dentist appointments.

 

How to Create a Drop-off Reminder wSmartPhone Leg 530x275

Smartphone Safety Tip #2:  Text scheduling apps

Though there are numerous SMS scheduler apps available for download on both IOS and Android systems (and many of them are FREE!), the one I use on my android phone is titled, “SMS Scheduler”.  Such apps allow you to pre-program a reminder text at a certain time of day and on whichever days needed so that the child transporter receives a text reminder to “confirm that children have been dropped off at school” to the safety circle/ other parent.  Such apps may be found on your app store by searching, “SMS scheduler”.  The downside: there is no safety net for failures to respond with confirmation of child drop-off/ pick-up other than user action to re-text/ call the driver.

sms scheduler apps 530x360

Smartphone Safety Tip #3:  Child reminder apps

mom i am here app - 350x161The best app that I have found is the “Mom I am Here” app:  great for confirmation of morning childcare drop-offs!   It is currently available on android only and for a small fee. Once installed, this app allows you to set up an automatic schedule for the alarm to sound and display on your phone. If you do not respond to the alarm within your specified interval, it will send a text (which can be customized to include your daycare name, number, etc.) to your emergency contacts in a stepwise fashion so that a child’s whereabouts may be confirmed within a reasonable timeframe.  The app has future build out plans for a 911 option as well.  What I love most about this app is the automatic safety chain of emergency contacts when the driver fails to confirm child drop-off within a customizable interval (in my case, 5 minutes).

check my child app 350x180Another app I like (and use daily) is the “Check My Child” (CMC) Reminder system, also available on android for a small fee.  CMC features customizable scheduling, one emergency backup if the user fails to confirm the alert within a customizable alarm interval, and the option to set multiple reminders. This app is great for children who need to travel to multiple activities during a typical week (eg: art, swim class, childcare).

Sadly, I have not found any child reminder apps operating in IOS or Windows-based smartphones that offer the emergency backup contact features of the two aforementioned reminder apps which are currently available on android devices.  I hope that this status changes in the near future.  It is important to note, however, that IOS does offer as a standard feature a GPS-based reminder/ alert notification, which can be set up to alarm upon detecting arrival to your workplace, church, etc.  There are also apps that can use GPS-based locations to set alerts.  However, the ones I have tested to date have been less than optimal in reliability for my family’s daily child transport activities.

A Call to Action for ALL Parents:

RRP sick or absent one phone call flyer 330x440As I approach the fifth anniversary of my child’s untimely death due to vehicular heatstroke, I look back with pride at how far my fellow heatstroke prevention warriors have come in raising awareness of FBS, a danger to child passenger safety that most parents have never heard of until it strikes their family or their community.  I also look at the present status of child hot car deaths and must admit my frustration with the apparent failure of the aforementioned awareness campaigns to reduce the average number of annual child hot car deaths.  Why????  What are we missing?  My best guess is that we too often tell parents to create reminders to alert them of babies riding in the backseat, but most of the reminder suggestions are impractical, even archaic at times given the advanced technology systems that we have become accustomed to in our daily lives.  The core concept of Ray Ray’s Pledge calls for families with young children to create a safety circle of childcare arrival confirmations and absence verifications for the morning childcare drop-off, a known high-risk time of day for young children to be forgotten in the backseat, ESPECIALLY if the child is less than three years of age and/ or there is a change in routine.  This safety circle should include the parents, the childcare provider/ teacher, as well as the driver in charge of transporting the child on a regular basis (if different from the parents).  I know, in hindsight, that one phone call or text could have saved my baby’s life on that fateful day; and I hope that the smartphone tips and tools that I have elucidated in today’s blog will assist you in creating your own safety circle to prevent child vehicular heatstroke in your family—BUT….reading this blog will do nothing to save your child from your own memory failure:  you MUST take ACTION to prevent child hot car death.  The first step?  Use one of these reminder suggestions as part of your daily child transport safety plan!

To Get You Started!!

***PEDIATRIC SAFETY & RAY RAY’S PLEDGE ARE GIFTING 50 ACCESS CODES***

We are Giving the “Mom I am Here” App…to the first 50 Android Phone Owners Who Do the Following 2 Things…

  • Sign Up for Child Safety: Subscribe Here to Receive Pediatric Safety Emails (make sure to confirm or we won’t know)
  • Take RayRay’s Pledge: Post one of the following on Twitter, FB or your favorite Social Media Site – (go ahead and customize it – make it your own!)
    • I pledge to call my child’s teacher/caregiver if he/she will be late or absent from childcare
    • I pledge to check my back seats every time I walk away from my car, and remind others to do the same
    • I pledge to call the police any time I see a child left alone in a car

Leave a Comment and Let Us Know You Met These 2 Requirements (along with a link [URL] to your pledge) and we’ll email you an access code to the Mom I am Here App. Please Help Us Keep Kids Out of Hot Cars This Summer!

***Finally…The Rules

  1. Promotion is only for Android phones – we’re so sorry, but this app isn’t available for iPhones
  2. Promo codes have no country of origin participation restrictions
  3. Codes will be given to the first 50 participants that can be verified to have met BOTH requirements above.
  4. Promotion starts Friday May 27, 2016 and ends at noon EST Thursday June 2, 2016. Please make sure to confirm  your subscription  to Pediatric Safety (and leave your email address in the comments so we can match it up) or we can’t verify the entry.
  5. Finally – very important – you MUST redeem the access codes and install the app before their expiration date of  June 14th, 2016.

About the Author

Dr. Reeves-Cavaliero currently works as a Senior Medical Scientist for a major biopharma company. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree with Honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and performed her residency training in pharmacy practice with a focus in critical care at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Reeves-Cavaliero possesses more than a decade of clinical experience in both academic teaching hospitals and community hospitals, and she also has extensive experience within the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Reeves-Cavaliero dedicates her free time to educating parents and raising community awareness of the risks of child car deaths due to heatstroke, and she serves as a Hyperthermia Awareness Parent Advocate for Safe Kids USA. Moreover, Dr. Reeves-Cavaliero is the co-founder of Ray Ray’s Pledge, a program that was developed in response to the untimely death due to heatstroke of her one-year old daughter, Sophia Rayne (“Ray Ray”) Cavaliero.

Comments

One Response to “Smartphone Apps To Prevent Child Hot Car Deaths (Gifting 1st 50)”

  1. Stefanie ZuckerStefanie Zucker says:

    First 2 app access codes taken! A little extra peace of mind as their little one enters the world!

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