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Valley advocate creates app to prevent hot car deaths

PHOENIX — Arizona has had double the amount of hot car related deaths this year than last year.

So far, there have been four hot car deaths in 2019 in Arizona, compared to just two in 2018.

Each one of these deaths has a profound impact on parents like Erin O’Connor.

O’Connor is the father of three girls. He knows how easy it can be to get distracted.

“I have absolutely no problem with saying I’m shocked that I never left a kid in the car,” he said. “Anybody that knows me knows I’m incredibly scatter brained, I absolutely have adult ADD, I am all over the place all the time.”

However, that’s all it takes. One misstep or morning out of a daily routine can cause a child to be left behind.

That’s why he created what he called an alarm system with a safety net.

“The Back Seat is a downloadable app to your smart phone that is designed to be an alarm system with a back up to remind parents to not leave loved ones in the back seat to suffer from heat stroke,” O’Connor said.

The app uses GPS to track a car and can detect speed to determine when a car is parked.

“Between 2 and 4 minutes after the vehicle has stopped moving, and that’s as detected by GPS, it will begin a very gentle alert,” O’Connor said.

It begins with a simple notification that requires you punch in a specified 4-digit code. If that is ignored, the notifications will continue.

But what if you miss the text or the sound on your phone isn’t on?

“The app will actually override your vibrate and go fully audible,” O’Connor said

If all else fails, there’s even additional safety nets built in.

“Roughly 11 to 13 minutes after the initial alert is when it sends out text messages to what we call at Back Seat, ‘The Alert Team,'” O’Connor explained.

He said while ultimately the goal is to prevent hot car deaths, O’Connor said he never wants it to even be close to a life-or-death scenario.

“What a lot of people don’t even think about, and it’s mostly because it’s not even tracked or reported, is the tens of thousands of children that are rushed into emergency rooms that are barely alive,” he said. “Most of those children will live with some type of medical problem for the rest of their life as a result of beginning the heat stroke process.”

O’Connor said that while the app has had some technical glitches because of its fast expansion, the even bigger issue is getting people to download the app in the first place.

“I wish people would stop being so arrogant about how this couldn’t possibly happen to them,” O’Connor said. “I’ve spoken to parents who have buried children and that’s a hard conversation. I’ve candidly asked every single one of them, ‘Have you ever thought this couldn’t possibly happen to you?’ And every single parents said, ‘Absolutely. I vehemently said this would never happen to me.’ So, it’s just awareness.”

The Back Seat is available for download in the App Store.

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