In response to a recent rise in demand for technologies to prevent heat stroke-related death in children, CHOP researchers evaluated products designed to prevent children 0 to 24 months of age from being left behind in closed, parked vehicles, potentially leading to heat stroke.
The study, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was divided into three phases:
- a detailed market assessment of existing technology designed to prevent pediatric heat stoke
- a systematic evaluation of specific performance criteria
- human volunteer subject testing with each device
Phase 1 - Market Research
During this phase, 18 technologies for heat stroke prevention were identified during a detailed market assessment conducted via the Internet, lay press news stories, through consultation with CPS advocacy organizations, and direct contact from the device manufacturers.
Phase 2 - Product Evaluation
Of the products identified in Phase 1, three devices were chosen to be further evaluated as they were available commercially on the market and had technology that sensed the presence of a child in a child restraint. The devices were put through a series of tests, including evaluating the products' sensing limits and ability to detect a child versus items of similar weights using four different types of child restraints. Misuse scenarios and notification distance with interference, such as a cell phone were also tested, as was the effectiveness of the products when liquids such as juice or saline were spilled on them.
Phase 3- Human Subject Testing
Eight pediatric volunteers were properly restrained in child safety seats instrumented with one of the three heat stroke prevention devices evaluated in Phase 2, and the status of device activation and caregiver notification were recorded. A commute-simulation assessment was also completed in which the devices were evaluated with the volunteers after a 25 minute commute.
This preliminary qualitative evaluation showed none of the three heat stroke devices tested to be completely reliable and consistent in their ability to detect children. The devices require considerable effort from the parent/caregiver to ensure smooth operation and often that operation is not consistent.
As these technologies continue to evolve, education for parents and caregivers is essential in avoiding pediatric heat stroke. Access NHTSA's heat stroke content for prevention tips and ways to get involved.
To read CHOP and NHTSA's full heat stroke technology evaluation report, click here.