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Is There a Downside to a Car Baby Alarm?

The creator of the baby alarm posted a thoughtful response to this postt in the comments below. Please be sure to read his thoughts!

I saw a new product the other day, a gadget that sounds an alarm when a parent opens a car door to place a baby’s car seat into a car. It will sound again when the parent goes to get out of the car as a reminder to get the baby out of the back seat.

Every year, “hot cars” is a story almost every newsroom covers. The hope is that by reminding people of the danger of leaving a child unattended inside a locked car, no child will be left in such a situation and, thereby, no child will lose his life because of the soaring temperatures on a sunny afternoon.

This alarm’s goal is to prevent that. And I think that’s a good thing.

But something alarms me. (Pardon the pun.) What happens if a parent becomes too reliant on such a device?

I used to have a car key fob that had a lock and unlock button on my car. Years before the battery finally died, the little plastic area where the fob fit onto the keyring wore down to the point that the fob became separated from the keyring itself.

This turned out to be a good thing, because once I actually managed to lock my keys in my car. Because the fob was no longer on the keyring — it was still in my pocket — I simply reached into my pocket, pressed the unlock button and I was right back in my car. No problem.

On some level, though, I’m sure I was less concerned about locking my keys in my car because I knew I had a save waiting if I needed it.

When my car went into the shop and I had to rent a car, I quickly realized how much more attention I’d have to pay to the car keys because I no longer had the fob to save me from myself.

So what happens if a parent becomes so dependent on such a device, then has to suddenly change cars? Let’s say they attend a family reunion and end up driving a different car and forget the alarm?

On some level, it seems to me, if a parent actually needs that alarm at all, there’s great reason to worry.

But a parent who becomes dependent on the reminder is potentially that much closer to a calamity as soon as the alarm isn’t there. Or, for that matter, as soon as the alarm’s battery dies unexpectedly.

It’s a great idea in theory, but I wonder how dangerous a false sense of security could be created.

Your Turn:

What do you think of the idea of a baby alarm in a car? Good idea or bad? Leave me a comment and let me know.

2 Comments

  1. Hi, Joe…
    Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful response. I’m flattered that you’d take the time to visit my blog and I appreciate the time you put into responding.
    It certainly sounds like you put a great deal of thought into the design and you and your company should be applauded for that. It was not my intent — and I hope it’s clear that it wasn’t my intent — to belittle your product or any parents who choose to use it.
    I agree with you that the primary goal should be protecting a child from a needless accident and that if it happens even once, much less the 10-15 times you cite, it’s once too many.
    You raise an interesting question about airbags: does having them cause one to drive less carefully?
    I’m not sure about that, actually. There seems to be some credibiity placed on cars that do better in safety tests. If we’re to assume that we’re going to drive as safely as we can at all times, why would anyone be so preoccupied with the safety features of the car? Sure, there’s always the question of what the other drivers would do, but don’t we, on some level, drive with more confidence if we know our car is safer by design standards? That doesn’t necessarily make us more reckless behind the wheel, but could it make us not be as 100% focused on being as safe as we should because we assume our little car is “indestructible” compared to others on the road?
    That’s an interesting question and I’ll have to think about that one.
    Our technology these days can do wonderful things for us. I applaud any parents who take any extra step possible to protect their children from potentially deadly mishaps. I merely point out that it’s important to use technology to augment your own caution, not to depend on it to BE your caution. It sounds like you never intended to be a parent’s sole reminder to look out for his child, and that’s definitely the right mindset more of us should have. After all, if the child isn’t top-of-mind for a parent, ultimately no amount of technology is going to prevent tragedy, and that’s never the fault of the technology itself.
    I thank you again for your product, the time you put into designing it, and to your customers who use it wisely to save lives!

  2. Dear Patrick, I’m the inventor of the Backseat Baby Alarm
    that you refer to so of course want to address your point. I guess the question
    you raise is “Could the parent become too mentally dependent on the alarm and
    should the alarm firstly, either not be there 
    or secondly,  fail,  could it actually cause them to leave without
    the child.?
    Sure, in theory you could make your argument. Anything is
    possible. You put forth a first
    hypothetical situation where one day the parent 
    has to suddenly switch  from their
    car with the alarm to one without. In answer to this, I can’t be help but point
    out what you wrote about your own experience with the rental car in your article. It
    did not have the key fob you were so used to and dependent on. You yourself
    wrote, “When my car went into the shop and I had to rent a car, I
    quickly realized how much more attention I’d have to pay to the car keys
    because I no longer had the fob to save me from myself.” So if this is
    true of you  and the fob, why would it
    also not be true of the parent and my alarm? Would they not also react in the
    same way and realize “how much more attention I’d have to pay”? 
    The second
    situation you give is if the batteries suddenly die. Keep in mind that in any
    one trip, the Backseat Baby Alarm sounds 4 times – a 1st
    confirmation tone when you open the back door to put the child in, a 2nd
    confirmation tone when you open your door to get in, the actual reminder alarm
    sound when you open your door to get out, and a voice announcement that says,
    “The alarm is now off” when you last open the back door to get the child out.
    If the batteries were to die suddenly, there is high probability you would be
    forewarned they were dead when you fails to hear the first two or last sounds. Secondly, failure
    of the alarm, for any reason, does not CAUSE the parent to forget anymore
    than  the failure of a smoke alarm or
    home security system causes the fire itself or the thief to target your home. The
    accident, should it happen, does not occur when the parent opens the door and
    leaves the child in the parking lot of their employer. No. It happened 10, 15,
    20 minutes prior to  that when they lost mental track of what they were doing and who they were with and went past the daycare without stopping and straight to
    work. Yes, obviously if my alarm does not go off when it should, 
    you could say it failed to prevent the accident. But you could not say
    it caused the accident.  The combination of the child falling asleep and the parents mind thinking about other things happens all the time with or without a
    safeguard in the car.  
    In sum, does having
    air bags in one’s car cause you to drive less carefully?    
    I don’t mind  the question being raised, I thought about it
    too and that is why I designed it with redundant confirmation tones and in the
    future, could probably include a low battery indicator if people are willing to
    pay for that. But on the other hand, I would like to raise my own question
    of  “ Is there a downside to questioning
    the wisdom of  parents installing an alarm in their car to prevent them  from accidentally
    leaving their baby in the backseat?”. 
    Sure, doing so can only discourage parents from doing so and that can
    only have one outcome – the probability and likelihood that these needless,
    preventable deaths will continue unabated. 16 children died this way this past summer and as things stand now it is a certain truth that there are 10~15 families out there right now who don’t know it but are fated to lose the most precious thing in their lives next summer – unless something is done. 
     Respecfully, Joe Dorsey

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.