Every year, an average of 38 children die in the US when they are left in their car seat in a hot car. You might imagine that the parents of those children were just neglectful or uncaring, but you’d be wrong in nearly all of those cases. It’s horrifying to think, but our attempts to make children safer in our cars have made it easier to forget that we have a child in the car at all.
In 1994, child deaths from airbags in the US peaked out at just over 60 fatalities. The reasonable reaction was to move children to the back of the car where the airbags wouldn’t reach them. But a sleeping baby is a quiet baby, and a busy parent with a million things on their mind can easily think that they’ve already dropped the child off at daycare, or even forget that they were along for the ride at all. (see Wrapsody for a personal story. If you are strong enough for a very difficult article, this one from The Washington Post is excellent.)
How can we help parents remember that their children are still in the car seat in the back of the car no matter what other distractions there may be?
Approaches To Consider
No solution created in a hackathon will help if parents think that this is a problem that only affects other people. How can we raise awareness of the problem so that parents will know that they need to enact a strategy for remembering their baby is in the car? Public service announcements? An internet meme?
2. Retrofit Car Seat Alarm
Most solutions to this problem posted on blogs rely on people to develop habits such as leaving their purse or wallet in the back seat next to the baby. All of these rely on human habit and the hope that we won’t be too distracted to do the usual thing, but we already know that this tragedy often happens when the unusual throws parents off their routine.
If you leave your keys in the ignition after the car is turned off, an alarm tells you that you may be forgetting your keys. In the future maybe child car seats will have built in alarms to let you know that the seat is occupied even when the car is turned off or the keys are taken out of the ignition. Can you design a retrofit car seat alarm that will work in any car, any car seat, TODAY?
How To Respond
Create your solution and post it on your blog, on GitHub, on YouTube, or wherever else makes the most sense. Reference this challenge in your post so that we pick up pingbacks. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us about your solution if you think we should highlight it in a future post on the GWOBlog.
Remember that Geeks Without Bounds will only highlight open source projects, so make sure that you include an open license, creative commons license, or a declaration of public domain content with your solution.