With the high temperatures we are currently experiencing in Spain this summer, the subject of child safety in cars and heatstroke is once again gracing the front covers of our newspapers. And for good reason, since we know that the inside of a closed vehicle exposed to the sun becomes like a small oven, and the temperature inside can quickly reach 50ºC causing danger for children, pets and anyone else trapped inside.
Furthermore, the biggest temperature increase happens in the first ten minutes in which the car is in the sun, and therefore this process happens very quickly, perhaps before we have time to realise. These types of cases do indeed occur and it is not necessarily because of negligence or irresponsible practice; it may just be a mere oversight.
As Fundación MAPFRE and The Spanish Pediatric Association's report shows, children can easily suffer from heatstroke (Spanish) when it is only 25ºC outside and after only ten minutes trapped in the car. Worst of all, it can truly happen to anyone. Just one moment of forgetfulness, and a mind full of other concerns, and the impossible can occur. This is is why it is worth asking the question: is there some kind of system that can alert us to an oversight of this type? How can we be sure that we have not forgotten about a child in a car?
As a result of the numerous cases of heatstroke in cars that end up causing fatalities, initiatives involving technology that can warn us of these kinds of situations are starting to emerge. For example, the company General Motors brought out a warning device last year, similar to the kind of device that warns us we should not forget to fasten our seat belt. The message "look on the rear seat" is displayed on the dashboard when we turn off the engine to get out of the vehicle. It is both an audio and visual warning with a flashing message displayed on the dashboard.
Other devices exist on the market, such as the CarMinder, which has a Bluetooth hands-free speakerphone and a warning system which synchronizes with a smartphone. If we turn off the engine and get out of the car leaving the child behind the system will alert us if it registers any sound, such as, for example, a child's voice in the car.
A different but extremely ingenious system is the Gabriel system. This system consists of a small mat with incorporated pressure sensors which is placed underneath the child car seat. It is connected to a device which can be put on the car keys, and when we switch off the engine and get out of the car without the child, once we have gone further than 5 meters, the mat will communicate with the device we are holding and will activate the alarm.
This type of warning system could save the lives of many children every year who will be affected by heatstroke inside the car. There is nothing stopping us from equipping new cars with these warning systems since the technology already exists. A simple pressure sensor placed on the rear seats that can tell the difference between an empty child car seat and an occupied one would be enough to put an end to these terrible situations.