Principal Investigator: Jalaj Maheshwari, MS, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF THIS PROJECT?
Pediatric vehicular heatstroke-related deaths remain common in the US and across the world; there are technology opportunities to prevent them. In 2019, 52 children died in the US, the deadliest year over two decades. In Australia, over 5,000 children are left in cars every year. Clearly this is a global problem that needs to be addressed.
Therefore, we wanted to explore the 3 Es – Engineering, Education, and Enforcement. Engineering to look into real-world cases caused by different circumstances and to determine the potential of technologies to either detect or alert caregivers; education to better understand efforts taken on the international, federal, state, and grassroots level to increase caregiver awareness; and enforcement to summarize regulatory and consumer information test protocols outlining a child detection technology requirement for all vehicles.
Specifically, we reviewed actual cases of heatstroke deaths to determine the scenarios and characteristics of these events and the types of detection and alerting technologies that potentially could have mitigated them. We reviewed 353 cases and their media reports, with 44 police reports obtained. Finally, we reviewed 11 exemplar cases with industry experts to determine the detection and alerting technologies.
WERE ANY OF THE FINDINGS SURPRISING?
It was surprising to see where these heatstroke cases occurred inside the vehicle: In addition to cases in which the child was in the rear and front seats, we were surprised to see cases in which the child was on the vehicle floor between the front and rear seat and even in the trunk of the car. By examining these cases and the potential of individual technologies to mitigate them, we can provide guidance for vehicle manufacturers to install technology or a combination of technologies that work in all types of scenarios to prevent future fatalities. For example, even if caregivers do not have their phones with them, an alert should be sent to another person to ensure children can be rescued in time.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR INDUSTRY?
This project provides much-needed data to child seat manufacturers, vehicle original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and NHTSA to help guide future development of vehicular heatstroke mitigation technologies.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THIS LINE OF RESEARCH?
We want to evaluate these life-saving technologies across various scenarios to see if they work in mitigating heatstroke-related deaths. Then we can work on the education piece to better communicate with caregivers about these technologies.
Project Team Member
Kevin Heller, BA, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Gregory Chingas, MSBE, Drexel University
Emily Burton, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Jennifer Stockburger, Consumer Reports; Emily Thomas, Consumer Reports; Casey Anthony, Graco Children’s Products Inc.; Mark LaPlante, Graco Children’s Products Inc.; Marianne LeClaire, Graco Children’s Products Inc.; Mike Rohrer, Graco Children’s Products Inc.; Curt Hartenstine, Iron Mountains LLC; Nick Rydberg, Minnesota HealthSolutions; Erin Hutter, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Uwe Meissner, Technical Advisor