An app that aims to prevent something no parent should ever have to experience; a collision with a child in a driveway.
Think for a second…
You’re in a rush. You’ve herded your kids out the door while juggling bags and keys. They’re now safe and secure in their car seats. You turn the ignition, shift the car into reverse, take your foot off the brake and the car starts to roll backwards. Your partner has the two-year-old inside… at least that was right a minute ago.
If only you could stop for a moment to think… You might stop and ask yourself if the front door was left ajar?
Or maybe you’d have noticed your partner had followed you outside to take out the garbage with your other child trailing behind?
By pausing for just a second you just might give your brain a chance to catch up.
For most parents, this situation is all too familiar. Luckily our awareness of our surrounds is pretty good and we get it right and keep everyone safe. Unfortunately, the smallest lapse in our attention or simple misunderstandings can lead to irreversible consequences.
Low Speed Vehicle Run-overs (LSVR) are almost always caused by a parent or someone known to the child and occur most frequently towards the end of the week when we are most exhausted. They disproportionately affect children aged 0-4 years accounting for 60 deaths and 70 per cent of serious injuries in Australia between 2001-2010. At this young age our children never fail to surprise us at how quickly they grow. Unfortunately, the combination of their new-found ability to walk, short stature, curiosity of the world around them and naivety of danger can be a deadly combination. Sadly, children aged 12-23 months are least likely to survive such an impact.
Even with all the technology available in vehicles today, accidents in driveways still happen too frequently. Reversing cameras only show a part of the picture and reversing sensors can be confusing, constantly beeping at us. We might turn them off, or our brains might tune them out, not to mention these may be drowned out by our noisy children. Research suggests that these may be contributing to LSVR by reducing the ‘sense of risk’ among drivers. This is also contributed to by the fact that people feel more relaxed in the home environment.
So, what steps can be taken to avoid deaths in driveways?
Our brains are amazing things, but they fail us when we aren’t being mindful of the situation. Being mindful isn’t something that happens naturally – we need something to help us realise when to stop and take a second to pause and think about what we are doing.
As well as taking the time to think it can also help to have something trigger our memory. Being prompted by some direct questions helps to push distracting information to the back our mind and focus on what is important at that present moment.
What is ‘just a second’?
Our project aims to develop an app that will prompt users with a few simple and quick questions when they get into their car. As shown in the video, the app will ask them how many of their children are in the car. If they’re not all there, the app will ask if the driver knows where they are.
It sounds simple, and it is. But we believe that triggering people to take a second to think about where their children are will help reduce driveway deaths. By no means is this a silver bullet, but along with the array of technology available in cars today we think this will be a worthwhile contribution.
For the app to trigger when the person enters the car, we will be using near-field-communication (NFC) technology. This is the same technology that is embedded in credit cards when using contactless pay systems. We believe this is a convenient, non-invasive, reliable and easy-to-use way for people to use the app.
It would be great if cars already had a built-in feature like this. And perhaps they will in the future. In the meantime, we can’t stand by and do nothing. Almost everyone has a smart phone and NFC technology is cheap enough that the app will be affordable for anyone who wants to use it.
How to get involved?
By backing this project you help us cover the costs of developing the app for Android and of providing the NFC tags that work with the app.
Our video shows the current functionality of the prototype app and tag. Some of the key features we need to develop include: set-up functionality (names of kids etc.), a more attractive user interface, randomization of order check-boxes (so you’re forced to think), time-out functionality (so the app doesn’t re-launch if you use your phone for a couple of minutes).
The tags you will receive can be positioned to a location in the car where you usually place your phone in the car – in a hands-free holder, the cup holder or tray. When the phone comes into proximity of the tag, the app will launch, taking the driver through a couple of quick questions.
Both adhesive and non-adhesive tags will be available.
Jump in and back this project if you’re a parent or just want to do something about driveway deaths.
By helping us reach our stretch goal of AU$80,000 we will be able to extend the app to Windows phones.
Please note that Apple have not enabled NFC for any purpose other than Apple Pay, so this app cannot be extended to iOS yet. If NFC is enabled for developers in the future, we will consider developing the app for iOS.
Risks and challenges
We’ve set a challenging but achievable deadline for the project to deliver our first tags along with the app by the end of 2017.
Apart from the initial development of the app, we expect a significant amount of time will be spent fine tuning the app’s behaviour to make sure it has robust functionality and doesn’t become an annoyance to use.
One key challenge will be to stick to the brief and avoid scope creep. There’s lots of other things we think can be achieved in the area of child and car safety, but we will be focusing on getting what we’ve promised right, before adding new features.