Original Article: The government keeps reminding us that using a smartphone while driving is dangerous, but a new car seat promises that smartphone apps can actually keep children safer. The product in question is the First Years IAlert car seat, which connects with a parent’s phone to warn if their child is unbuckled, left in an empty car, or seated at an unsafe angle.
The product is a new version of the First Years Convertible Car Seat, which has won awards from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its safety and ease of use. The new IAlert function will let drivers connect their smartphone to the seat via Bluetooth. The phone app will tell parents whether the car seat is installed at a safe angle, provides warnings if the seat is too hot or cold to be comfortable for a child, and even warns if the child is left in the seat while the car isn’t moving – for instance if a parent heads into the grocery store and somehow forgets their child.
The product’s goal is to help reduce the number of children killed or injured in vehicles. NHTSA reports that last year 33 children died from heatstroke after being left in car seats unattended. Moreover, the car seat’s manufacturers say it could reduce the number of children hurt in car crashes by helping parents ensure their progeny are safely belted. At the same time, we can’t help thinking it’s counterproductive to suggest parents look at their phones while driving. Couldn’t a quick glance in the rear-view mirror accomplish the same task?
A company representative told us the IAlert car seat is in the prototype stage, and will be on sale by this fall. The smartphone app will be available for the Apple iPhone and Android phones. The seat’s electronics are powered by a lithium battery that should last about four months. When it needs recharging, the seat automatically sends an alert to the parent’s smartphone.