There are dozens of products available to baby proof a home - cabinet locks, plug protectors, knob covers, baby monitors, safety gates - you name it. But up until now, there's really been nothing affordable available to safeguard against a terrible tragedy that sadly but undeniably is going to occur this summer - the accidental forgetting of a child in the backseat of a hot car.
The Backseat Baby Alarm is a new invention designed to help safeguard against this from happening to you. Its easy to use, affordable, and effective. It turns itself on automatically when you open either back door to put the child in. After that, it works just like when you forget your keys in the ignition - except the Backseat Baby Alarm is reminding you of something far, far more important. When you open your own door to get out, it plays a short, upbeat music box chime as a reminder. No loud sirens, no beeping horns, just a little audio “tap on the shoulder” so you “look before you lock”. Not that you will ever really need it, but just in case because even a first time parent soon learns you can never, ever be too careful when it comes to your kids, especially infants. It’s just a backup safety net for that one morning when you might be sleep deprived, distracted, on auto-pilot, or your mind is wandering too much when driving with a child who’s fallen fast asleep in the back and not making a sound.
Installation is basically “peel & stick”, it works with any kind of vehicle including mini-vans and pick-ups, and cost is just $29.99.
I am now endeavoring to conduct a large scale field test of my invention by parents with children 3 years and under who would be interested in purchasing and willing to act as field testers and provide feedback on their user experience. If this is something you would be interested in helping out on, please read the details that follow below.
PS - A special note to Moms: I know there will be a lot of moms whose first reaction to the idea will be, "There is no way I would ever forget my child. I think about them constantly". I won't argue with you. I raised my 3 children more or less on my own and thinking back to those days when they were little know exactly how you feel. But, here's the one thing I want you to be aware of parent to parent that you can see on my "Statistics" page. 2/3rd's of the children who died in this way in the last 6 years were not in the care of their mother at the time of the accident. In fact, of the 8 children who have died this year so far, 7 were NOT with their mother.
So it's not you I'm worried about so much, it's everyone else I am. And unless you are absolutely certain that you and only you will be the one to drive your child, please think about the need to baby proof not just your home but also your car.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
In a nutshell, the Backseat Baby Alarm is a reminder chime that works just like when you leave your keys in the ignition. Pretty simple. If you watch the 4 minute video you can see how it turns itself on, how it's turned off, and hear the chimes.
The underlying "technology" used is magnetic reed sensors. They are the same things found in home security systems on windows and doors with a little magnet to detect if a door or window has been opened, except I adopted them to detect the opening of a car door. I liked the idea that if home security companies have found them reliable enough to use in their alarm systems, then they should be reliable enough to use in my own device. Another advantage was that they do not draw electrical power when not in use so the battery life can be greatly prolonged.
WON'T I BECOME USED TO THE SOUND?
Possibly, but on the other hand, our brains are trained by repetition. Nearly any time you hear the Backseat Baby Alarm's unique music box melody, it will be when you are with your baby and that constant reinforcement of "music box sound" = "baby in car!" will probably work powerfully to train your brain to automatically think "BABY!" anytime you hear it. Think about it. You hear the ring of your cell phone even more often but has your brain ever just "zoned out" it out so much you didn't even notice it ringing? Probably no.In fact, our cell phones typically have us so well trained that when someone else's phone goes off with the same ring tone as our's, we look around and reach for it - even when we know our own phone is right in our pocket or purse.
Also keep in mind that the most critical time you will need to notice the chime is when you are at where you shouldn't be at with your baby still with you - typically, in the parking lot of your job. This is where about 60% of these accidents occur. If that is the circumstance, you will be hearing the sound in a place you have never heard it before and thus, it will sound completely out of place, both literally and figuratively. In that case, I would think it likely it's going to come as a real shock to your system if all of a sudden you hear the chime go off when you are getting out in the parking lot of your job.
Lastly, one of the reasons two alternating music box melodies are used for the driver's door - i.e., the "alarm" sound - rather than one all the time is to change it up so less likely to get used to it. This wasn't based on any science or studies, just an amateur hunch but I thought changing it up would keep your brain more "off balance" as far as the sound goes.
HOW ABOUT INSTALLATION, BATTERIES, ETC?
The device is stand alone. Installation is basically “peel & stick”. It works with any type of vehicle and uses 3 replaceable AA batteries. We don't know how long the batteries will last but according to the tests done by the consulting electrical engineer, the batteries would last a couple of years under normal temperature conditions. However, this is on the workbench table at room temperature. Unfortunately, we know heat can wreak havoc on batteries so we can not predict what will happen in actual use as this will vary from location to location. On the other hand, the engineer was of a high confidence that the volume will go down as the batteries weaken, just like a flashlight bulbs dims over time. So although I chose not to have a "low battery" indicator on the initial prototypes, I hope the engineer's theory that there will be a change in volume will prove correct and be a kind of :"low battery" indicator instead. I have had a unit in my own car since Sept, 2013 and the batteries are still going strong. Also the severe cold we had this winter in Cincinnati did not effect it once. Everything is hard wired so there are no apps to download nor radio transmitters and receivers to sync up. For the passenger side rear door, you simply lay the lead wire for the sensor under the seats and carpet mats and at the hump, tuck it in under the rear edge of the center console so as to keep it out of the way. (I have a Toyota Camry and it was very easy to do).
EXACTLY WHEN AND HOW OFTEN DO THE CHIMES SOUND?
- When you open the back door, you hear a double ping sound 1x. This is to let you know the alarm is on and working.
- After putting your child in and then as getting in,yourself, you hear a chime melody of about 3 seconds plays 1x. This chime is a reconfirmation that the alarm is functioning correctly. If you don't hear it, it's a warning something is not right and not to leave before checking what's wrong. .
- You drive to your destination and open your door to get out. At that point a different chime also of about 3 seconds plays 1x. This is your "Look before you lock!" reminder chime.
- You open the back door to get your child out, chime plays 2x in a row and stops. This is actually to prompt you to press the "Off/Sleep" switch and put the alarm into sleep mode.
- While the chime is playing, you press the "Off/Sleep" switch and the alarm voice message cuts it off and says, "The alarm is now off", putting the alarm back into "Off/Sleep" mode till next time. If you don't hit the "Off/Sleep" switch, it remains active but not continuously sounding like an alarm would.
WHAT IF I JUST WANT TO PUT MY BRIEFCASE OR GROCERIES IN THE BACK? WON'T IT GO OFF?
Yes, but it doesn't have to. We did purposely make it so the alarm is activated automatically anytime you open the back door. But, if you are just putting in something other than your child and don't want it on, you simply reach out with your hand and press the "Off/Sleep" switch as seen in the video. And if you don't? Well, the worse thing that happens is that you hear a little music box chime.
WE USE BOTH DOORS TO GET OUR CHILD IN & OUT. CAN IT MONITOR BOTH ?
Yes,both rear doors have sensors and "Off/Sleep" switches.
IT SEEMS LIKE HAVING SOME KIND OF PRESSURE PAD IN THE CAR SEAT ACTIVATED BY THE WEIGHT OF THE CHILD WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER. WHY DIDN'T YOU USE THAT?
Three other products took that route before me and all proved to be unreliable. Apparently, the technology just isn't up to snuff. I can say this because all three were tested and reviewed by professionals. The products were/are the "Child Minder Pad", "Suddenly Safe", and the "IAlert Car Seat" by First Years/Tomy Intl. The first two were tested by the Center for Injury Prevention of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.in 2011 under the sponorship of the NHTSA. The last was tested by Consumer Reports magazine in 2013 and problems encountered by Consumer Reports were echoed by user reviews on Amazon. Apparently, one of the problems encountered was that the parent - at times - had to wiggle the child around before the sensor sensed them. Secondly, if you use something like a weight sensor pad as part of the carrier portion of the car seat, by default you also have to use a wireless transmitter and wireless receiver because, as any parent knows, you take the carrier in and out of the car. Being portable, this precludes hardwiring the pad to the other components. The first problem with wireless transmitters and receivers is that they have to sync up and stay synced during the whole drive. In the field test, the testers recorded occasions when the two components became unsynced. Secondly, they also found that the receivers could be interfered with by stray radio waves, etc and would give off false alarms as the parent was driving - even though the baby was right there in the car with the parent.
Even if the technology proved to be reliable, then there is the question of cost. The least expensivet of these systems is offered for $80.
I'M A STAY AT HOME PARENT. AREN'T MOST OF THESE ACCIDENTS BY PARENTS WHO ARE WORKING OR WHEN SHOPPING?
Until I systematically looked into and tallied where each of the 81 accidents for the last 6 years took place, I too thought most of these accidents were either by parents forgetting to drop their child off at the day care in the morning or accidentally forgetting them in the parking lot outside a store. As I detail on my "Statistics" page, it turns out that 60% of the accidents were indeed when the parent was taking the child to daycare/babysitter in the morning or somehow work related. Contrary to popular image however, I found only 1 case out of the 81 in which the child was forgotten in a store parking lot. Thus, what really surprised me was that in nearly 40% of the cases, the child died in the car right in the driveway or parked right outside the house. Now whether those parents were stay at home or working parents, it's impossible to say. However, what it does clearly say to me is that if you tell yourself this could never happen to you because you do not take your children to day care or a baby sitters well then, it's just wishful thinking on your part.
I live in Fort Mitchell, Ky just a few minutes outside of downtown Cincinnati with my two younger children of three. I am 52 years old. I grew up here then after college ended up living overseas for about 15 years mainly working in Japan. I came back to the US in 1996 and since them I have made a living as a real estate agent for Remax. I just mention these things in case you don't know me personally and want to verify I am real.
Needless to say I'm not some engineer or electronics expert. I guess I am what you call a "dining room table" inventor. But maybe that was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to come up with something that solved the problem using cheap, off the shelf stuff I could buy at Radio Shack, Home Depot, my local hobby shop and making up for it with innovative design rather than over-engineering it and ending up with something that was just too expensive for the average parent as consumer to consider. Case in point is First Year's IAlert Car Seat mentioned above. Their system calls your smart phone if you forget your child. The seat without the system is $170. With it is a mere $350. Hopefully you don't miss the call. Another example is the ANERIOS car seat which is still under development apparently but being sold at an "early bird" price on their Indiegogo campaign site for $300.
I had been working on crude prototypes for a while but what spurred me to really work on this idea was the study published by the NHTSA (National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration) in 2012 that I mentioned above. I remember just being flabbergasted after reading the complete study that no one could come up with something reliable (not to mention inexpensive!) for such a simple, clear cut problem.
That was about 3 years ago - and now I better appreciate just how "not so simple" coming up with an inexpensive but reliable solution can be. Since then I have spent hours and hours sitting at my dining room table gluing, soldering, and building all kinds of different prototypes, studying patents (there is something like 60 patents on file for this same problem), reading about these cases and the circumstances surrounding them to understand them, and sitting in my car checking and testing. I am sure my neighbors are suspicious of what the heck I am doing out there all the time. Oh well. I made my first prototypes using the sound modules I got out of talking greeting cards from Krogers. But finally it all came together with the help of my long retired but still sharp 90 year old father who is an electrical engineer and his contacts and I have what I believe is a very viable, affordable, and effective means to prevent these accidents from occuring.
I truly believe it's a product that has the potential to stop maybe not all, but at least some children from dying this summer. Please help that come true