Outdoor safety innovations

Did you know that researchers are working on network-connected pill bottles that track whether you’ve taken your medication? Bike helmets that let you know if the cyclist has been in an accident? House slippers that take readings and alert personnel if there is a medical problem? I read about these developing products a while back in an article titled “What Will They Think of Next” by Matt Hendrickson.

I thought about these healthful inventions when I recently read about car accidents and injured hikers. In fact, almost every day, there is a report of a traffic accident, an ocean accident, a hiker in need of rescue, or a missing fisherman. The law can’t keep us safe from every danger, and it can’t protect us from our own bad decisions. But maybe there are inventions that could reduce our risk and make us a little safer in dangerous situations.

Here are some outdoor safety innovations that could make us safer on land, in the ocean, and on the road. I don’t know whether these ideas are being worked on today, but I think they can help us choose to live more safely.

* GPS safety bracelet. Hotels, national parks, state beaches, outdoor sports companies, and nonprofit companies could rent a GPS safety bracelet, which could be activated when a hiker, swimmer, surfer, or paddler is lost or in distress. The GPS feature would give them peace of mind and help rescuers find them quickly and easily. They bracelet wouldn’t prevent accidents, but it could reduce the cost of rescues, by minimizing search times and getting help to travelers sooner.

* Sun safety bracelets. Hotels and outdoor sports companies could offer bracelets that measure body temperature and UV rays, and alert the wearer when they are too hot from the sun or need to re-apply sunblock. There are already color-changing sun-sensor stickers that remind kids to re-apply sunblock, and plastic UV-sensor cards that warn you of impending sunburn; a sun safety bracelet shouldn’t be a stretch.

* GPS walking sticks. National parks, hotels, and outdoor sport companies could rent walking sticks to hikers, which could help hikers keep their footing or aid hikers if they are injured. The walking sticks could come with a GPS feature in case the hiker gets lost, and it could also send out a signal if the hiker has an accident and the walking stick is broken.

* Pickup truck safety belt attachments. Personally, I think that adults can decide whether they want to wear seat belts or ride in the back of pickup trucks, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. But to make riding in pickup truck beds safer, car dealerships and car rental companies could sell or rent safety seats or safety belt attachments for pickup trucks. We strap in refrigerators, construction materials, and mattresses; how hard could it be to add a padded chair back with straps?

* Youth seatbelt adjusters. Hawaii law requires that children under age 4 use a child safety seat, and rightly so. Infants and toddlers need additional support and restraint. But Hawaii law also requires that children under age 9 use a booster seat, which I think only benefits booster seat manufacturers. Most children over age 4 should be able to sit in the car and use a seatbelt adapted for their size and height. Car companies could install adjustable seat belts or auto parts manufacturers could offer seat belt attachments that would allow people of all heights to wear them safety and comfortably. Some school buses in Hawaii already have SafeGuard adjustable seat belts; why not passenger vehicles?

What products and inventions do you wish you could use when you’re outdoors? How do you keep safe when you’re traveling, vacationing, or just relaxing on the beach? What could you do to make Hawaii a safer place?

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