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Study finds notification devices for children left in vehicles ‘unreliable’

August 1, 2012

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Washington – Devices that notify parents if they forget a child in their parked motor vehicle are “inconsistent and unreliable” as standalone heatstroke preventions, according to a study (.pdf file) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Researchers evaluated a sampling of the devices and determined:

  • Notification signals were susceptible to interference from other electronic devices.
  • The devices may provide a false sense of security and prevent parents from reminding themselves independently.
  • The devices were deactivated by a child slumping or being seated out of position.
  • "Considerable” effort is required to set up and ensure the devices operate effectively.

Researchers recommended that the devices be supplemented by education and awareness campaigns targeted to all parents. According to a NHTSA press release, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children younger than 14.

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