Teen's Invention Aims to Prevent Kids Dying in Hot Cars

If it were up to teenager Alissa Chavez there'd be no more children unintentionally left in hot cars. As of Aug. 4, 20 children have died this year after being left behind in a hot car, and just last week organizations turned to social media to raise awareness of the dangers of children being left behind in cars. Chavez hopes to end these tragedies with The Hot Seat, an alert system she created as an eighth-grader for her Albuquerque school's science fair in 2010.

Related: Never Leave Kids in Cars Unattended

Chavez is raising funds through Aug. 15 on crowd-funding website Indiegogo.com to make a prototype of The Hot Seat. She's already surpassed her initial goal of $5,000. "That will let me get a prototype, and once I have a prototype manufacturers will look at it and they'll be able to build it and after that I can get it on the market," the high school senior said on Canada's CBC Radio program "As It Happens."

The Hot Seat is a pad and fob that work together to alert the parent if a child is left in the car. The pad is placed in the child-safety seat and senses whether there is a child in the seat. If there is and the fob (with the parent) is at least 40 feet away from the seat without the child, the parent and the public will be alerted. An alarm will go off in the fob, on the parent's smartphone and on the car.

If you can't wait for Chavez' project to make it through the production pipeline, there are a couple of products on the market to remind parents when their baby is in the car with them:

  • ChildMinder Infant-Toddler Elite Pad System by Baby Alert International ($79.95): Similar to Chavez's invention, this system uses a pad and fob alarm to alert parents when they've left the child behind in a car seat.
  • Precious Cargo app (99 cents): When an adult gets in the car and turns it and the Bluetooth on, the app asks the parent if they're traveling with a child. If yes, the parent enters the child's name into the app and when the car is turned off, the app sends a reminder that the child is in the backseat. Without Bluetooth, the app can send timed reminders.

Of course, there are tried-and-true methods that don't involve technology when it comes to remembering a child in the backseat. KidsandCars.org, a nonprofit child-safety organization, recommends putting a cellphone, purse or briefcase on the floor of the backseat, forcing parents to check back there when exiting the car. Also, the organization suggests putting a large stuffed animal in a child's car seat when it's not in use, and when the child is in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a reminder that your child is in the backseat.

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