Every summer, the most heart-rending stories we read in the newspapers are about toddlers getting left behind in cars in the sweltering heat by forgetful or negligent parents. And the worst part of the episodes is that most times, the kids suffocate to death in the closed confines of the car.
One unfortunate victim of this negligence by parents was a baby who lived close to the home of 10-year-old Bishop Curry V. The six month old baby had been ‘forgotten’ in a minivan on a particularly warm day by his father in the town of McKinney, Texas. The baby suffered a fatal heat-stroke while the father ran errands.
Bishop was especially moved by the incident because the baby, named Fern, lived just down the street from them. Additionally, Bishop too has a one-year old sister whom he loves dearly, so the tragedy hit closer to his heart.
That was when Bishop made up his mind to do something about the alarmingly frequent incidents of toddler car deaths.
While brainstorming about various ways to tackle the situation, Bishop came up with an interesting idea. He worked on his idea the entire year and came up with his brain-child- ‘the Oasis’.
The Oasis is a small, box-shaped gadget that detects the presence of a child in the car, and blows cool air through built-in air ducts when the temperature in the car crosses a certain limit. At the same time, its in-built alerting antennae system alerts parents and emergency services about the distressing situation.
The gadget can be latched on to a child’s car seat or to the backs of the seats of the car.
The fifth grader has already acquired a provisional patent on his invention. A number of manufacturers have expressed interest in manufacturing the device. Motor company, Toyota, too has evinced interest in the Oasis.
Bishop has been actively involved in making people aware of the preventable tragedy and has even travelled to Michigan recently to introduce his device at a conference on auto safety.
The young boy has always been interested in engineering and inventing. Over the years, he has developed his own version of a catapult and a ping pong ball cannon. Growing up, Bishop dreams of inventing many more things that can help to save lives.
Hot car deaths are a very common occurrence in the USA and especially in Texas, which is where Bishop lives.
According to statistics compiled by a meteorologist who began keeping track of similar deaths, at least 712 children left in vehicles have died of heatstroke in the US, in the last two decades alone. Closer home, twin 5 year old girls were trapped in a car in the blistering heat of Gurgaon and died due to heatstroke. A six-year old boy got locked into a car in Delhi, when he climbed into the car for fun. Trapped for over four hours in the rapidly heating vehicle, the boy was found dead several hours later by the owner of the car. Another set of young siblings in Hyderabad were left behind in their car by their parents and roasted to death within a couple of hours.
Such incidents are all too common in the extreme summers of the Middle Eastern countries and Australia too.
So, how do these disasters happen? It is because babies and young children do not have well-developed systems for regulating their body temperatures. Thus, in hot surroundings, their bodies heat up at a rate three to five times faster than an adult’s. In a locked car, the car’s rolled up windows create a greenhouse effect, rapidly heating up the interiors of the car.
A 2008 study by the University of Western Australia concluded that temperatures in parked cars may reach up to 25 degrees Celsius more than the temperature outside the car on a typical sunny day.
Add to that the fact that infants are generally bundled up in layers of clothing. In such a scenario, a kid can suffer a heat-stroke and die of hyperthermia within just 15 minutes of being trapped in a car on a hot day.
In the light of such incidents, Bishop’s invention shines bright as a beacon of hope for ever-harried parents, who may suffer lapses in memory owing to the stress of daily life- memory lapses that may prove disastrous for their kids.