Last week, Evenflo and Wal-Mart announced that they had partnered up to create the ADVANCED SensorSafe™ Embrace™ DLX infant-only car seat. The seat has special technology in the chest clip that goes to a wireless receiver to alert the driver when a child is being left behind in a car. I’m not going to get into how the technology works or if it’s reliable. There are a few things I want to delve in on, though, when it comes to the issue of kids dying of heatstroke in cars and if this is going to be a good solution to reducing deaths.
So far for 2015 (as of this writing), we have seen 11 children die of heatstroke after being left in a car in the US. There were 44 and 31 deaths in 2013 and 2014, respectively. In the Upper Midwest, we do have fewer heatstroke deaths than in the South or the West, but it does still happen. Since 2003, 3 children have died of heatstroke in a car in Minnesota; 8 kids have died in Wisconsin during the same time frame.
According to information collected in Heatstroke Deaths of Children in Vehicles by Jan Null, CCM of the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science at San Jose State University, most of these deaths (for the years 1998 through 2014) occur under 3 main circumstances:
53% – child “forgotten” by caregiver (336 Children)
29% – child playing in unattended vehicle (186)
17% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult (111)
This new car seat technology is really only designed to address the first and third scenarios. It’s critically important to teach your kids to never, ever, EVER play in cars and make sure that a car is locked when it’s parked. Kind of like you need to teach your kids to not play with lighters or matches. Remember the gut-wrenching case in Wisconsin 2 years ago with the toddler who was hiding in a car truck and died? Cars are not toys.
Back to the car seat in question, I have a few issues with someone buying this seat.
First of all, this is an infant only seat, with a maximum weight of
20 35 pounds and a maximum height of 30 inches. The average baby is 30 inches by around the age of a year, but some babies outgrow an infant-only car seat before they are this old. Currently, the technology isn’t offered on a convertible car seat. Less than one-third of heatstroke deaths were in babies less than a year old. 22% of the deaths were in kids ages 1-2 years old, and 13% were in ages 2-3 years old. This is a solution for a very limited time period, and ONLY if your car is model year 2008 or newer.
Second, this piece of technology increases the cost of the seat from $90 to $150. That’s a $60 clip! While that’s not to say that saving lives isn’t important, is this cost increase worth it when it’s only useful for a very limited length of time?
Third, will this lull parents into a false sense of security?
Ideally, technology like this will become standard in all car seats. My cynical guess is that it’ll take 10 years or more before something like this is universally adopted, if ever. In the meantime, there are some common sense tips out there, but probably the best one is this:
Get in the habit of putting your phone, either in your purse or diaper bag on the floor whenever you put your child in the car seat. Do it every time, without fail. Not only will it serve as a reminder to always check your back seat, but it also removes the cell phone as a distraction while you’re driving. Really, the cell phone is a danger in of itself that should be removed from the process of driving, baby or not. As my neighbor Anna says, “Phone down, eyes up.”
What tips do you have to keep your kids safe in cars in hot weather? Share below!