(KPNX) - Scott McDonald's background is in airplanes, but it is an invention for cars that has become McDonald's passion in the hopes that the device will become required for vehicles across the country.
It's the latest in a series of inventions designed to address a deadly problem.
McDonald, a commercial airline pilot based in Arizona, was horrified to see the statistics of children who die or suffer injuries after being left in a hot car when the driver failed to remember the child was riding in the backseat.
"It just seems so incredible unnecessary for these tragedies to occur," he said.
He developed a technology called the Aviso Child-in-Car Alert that senses when a child is sitting in a car seat and alerts the driver by a chime sound when the car is turned off.
If the car is turned off and the device senses a child still in the car seat, a chime goes off for 10 seconds to remind the driver about the child, he said. The driver then has eight minutes and 30 seconds to either remove the child from the seat or turn the car back on. McDonald noted the engine does not have to be running, but the car has to at least have auxiliary power.
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After the time is up, another chime sounds for 30 seconds alerting the driver the car horn is about to sound. After a full nine minutes have passed, and the driver has been warned, the device triggers the car horn to sound alerting the driver that the child still remains in the vehicle, McDonald said.
McDonald acknowledged that nine minutes in a car in Arizona can be lethal, but he said it was important to ensure that the device did not sound too quickly and become an annoyance for the users. McDonald said if that was the case, he feared people would uninstall the device.
The Republic conducted an experiment on Wednesday, when temperatures in downtown Phoenix reached 108 degrees, to gauge how hot the interior of a car can get in less than nine minutes in an Arizona summer. The inside of the car started out around 77 degrees Fahrenheit and rose steadily more than 40 degrees to reach 119 degrees Fahrenheit during the nine-minute period.
McDonald had the idea for his device after a friend told him about nearly leaving a child in the car, but luckily the child sneezed just before the driver exited the vehicle. This prompted McDonald to think that cars should have some kind of reminder about children, similar to the tone drivers hear if they leave keys in the ignition when the door is opened.
McDonald does not expect for the device to become a booming business for him. He said each device costs about $250 and around $50 more for installation and he can only produce between 30 and 40 a month, maximum.
Instead, McDonald wants to raise public awareness of the problem and of the solutions.
Other inventors around the country have also experimented with similar devices, with varying degrees of success.
Baby Alert International develops products that are designed to prevent children from being forgotten in vehicles and the company features two products similar to McDonald's
The ChildMinder Infant-Toddler Pad System is a pad placed under the seat of a child's car seat that detects a weight change when a child is placed in the seat, according to the company's website. The system also features a key ring monitor to be placed with the driver's keys that will sound an alarm if the monitor reaches more than 15 feet away from the car seat without the child being taken from the seat.
The company also sells a product that features the same key-ring monitor but has a clip that is placed on the car-seat harness and functions to keep the harness in the proper position. Just like the pad system, the ChildMinder SoftClip sounds an alarm when the key-ring monitor gets 15 feet away from the clip.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012 conducted a study on those products and more than a dozen others designed to prevent heatstroke in cars and found that many of the devices, including the Baby Alert International products, were not as effective as the manufacturers might have intended.
"In sum, the devices require considerable effort from the parent/caregiver to ensure smooth operation and often that operation is not consistent," the study stated.
The study said until the technology in these devices can be improved, education about the issue is the best way to save children's lives.
The problem has been one of interest across the country as coverage has grown in recent years about children being left in hot cars.
Kidsandcars.org, a nonprofit aiming to raise awareness and prevent child deaths in or around vehicles, reported 35 child deaths from heat stroke suffered in a vehicle, but that number grew to 44 children under the age of 15 dying from heat stroke in 2013.
The nonprofit reported Arizona in the highest group of deaths in the history of each state with 28 child heat stroke deaths reported in Arizona history.
A Phoenix man whose 3-month-old baby died after being left in a hot car in the summer of 2013 was sentenced to four years in prison in early June because of the death.
The child was found after nearly three hours in the man's car parked outside the bar where he worked.
McDonald's greatest goal is to see a car manufacturer make such a device a standard feature in all new models. He believes it should not be an after-market product people have to buy, he said. One day, he said he would even like to see the Department of Transportation making such technology a requirement for all new cars.
While McDonald does not have an intention of accomplishing these goals himself, he said if his product can save at least one life, it is worth it.
Child-left-in-car market products:
· ChildMinder Infant-Toddler Pad System:
Sensor is a pad located under the car seat and the alarm sounds after a key ring monitor becomes more than 15 feet away from the pad while the pad still senses the weight of a child.
· ChildMinder SoftClip System:
Sensor is clipped onto the car seat restraints and the alarm sounds after a key ring monitor becomes more than 15 feet away from the sensor clip.
· Aviso Child-in-Car Alert System:
Sensor is a pad located under the car seat and an initial alarm sounds for 10 seconds when the car is turned off. If the sensor pad still senses weight after nine minutes the system sounds the car horn to alert of the remaining child.
Temperature benchmarks in car parked in downtown Phoenix on July 2:
· 12:42 p.m.: 77 degrees
· 12:44 p.m.: 89 degrees
· 12:47 p.m.: 103 degrees
· 12:50 p.m.: 113 degrees
· 12:51 p.m.: 119 degrees
Republic reporter Corina Vanek contributed to this article