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12-Year-Old Girl Develops Device to Help Prevent Hot Car Deaths, Wins 20k Reward

Last year, 52 children died from being left in a hot vehicle– just one death short of the 2018’s record high number, 53. In total, 857 children have died from PVH (Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke) since 1998, according to noheatstroke.org. But why are hot car deaths so common?

The majority of hot car deaths are accidental

According to Jan Null, an avid researcher and tracker of these heatstroke deaths, 46% of these accidental deaths involved a parent or guardian intending to drop off the child at school or daycare. He found that Thursday’s and Friday’s had the highest rate of hot car deaths and over 70% of the children who’ve fallen victim to these fatalities are under the age of 2.

Meet the 12-year-old girl who took action to ensure these incidents are a thing of the past

When 12-year-old Lydia Denton of North Carolina learned of these tragedies, she was horrified. Lydia told Good Morning America that she had, “[gotten] really emotional about it because it’s something that’s happening in the real world that [she] knew could be fixed.” So she decided to find a solution of her own: a device that could measure the temperature of a vehicle’s interior and alert parents and emergency officials if and when the vehicle reaches 102 degrees. 

Beat The Heat Car Seat: how does it work?

The Beat The Heat Car Seat is a portable device able to transfer from car seat to car seat. It features a pressure pad that can determine when a weight of five pounds or greater is within the seat, similar to an airbag that turns off or on depending on the weight it detects. The device then begins to read the temperature of the vehicle. Lydia Told GMA that, “no one has come up with a cheap way to fix it that people can afford,” so she decided that it would only cost around $50.

Because of her stellar invention, Lydia was nominated winner of the CITGO Fueling Education Student Challenge, with a monetary prize of $20,000– which Lydia says she will, in part, put towards developing more Beat The Heat Car Seats. She will also be sharing some of the prize money with her helpers, her 10-year-old sister and 14-year-old brother who assisted her with her invention. Lydia’s mother, a science teacher herself, said it was inspiring to witness her children come together and develop a solution; telling GMA, “Kids don’t know what impossible is…[Lydia] has proven that to me time and time again and told me, ‘It’s not impossible, Mom, you just think it’s going to be. I can do this.” 

Lydia Denton with her $20,000 prize for the invention of her Beat The Heat Car Seat.

Quick tips if you’re a parent or guardian who often has a child in the backseat

  1. Whether it’s your phone, wallet, purse, backpack or briefcase, make sure you leave something that you cannot start your day without in the backseat where the child is. This will encourage you to check your backseat before leaving the car unattended.
  2. Make sure you keep your keys on you at all times and never within your child’s reach to avoid a potential lock-out situation. The second leading cause of hot car deaths are children getting into unlocked cars; make sure you lock your vehicle and have control over the keys every time you park.
  3. Notify your child’s daycare center or babysitter that you will always call in advance if your child would not be dropped off as scheduled. This will ensure that if your child doesn’t reach the center or destination as planned, someone will notify you immediately.
  4. Double check your car from front to back to make sure all living beings have safely left the vehicle.
  5. Repeat these steps year-round. A vehicle can reach as hot as 110 degrees even when the outside temperature is as low as 60 degrees.