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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

Leaving Your Car “For a Minute”? What Do you do with the Children?

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Would you let your child play with a loaded gun? Of course you wouldn’t! Do you consider a motor vehicle something for adult use, too dangerous for children? Can a motor vehicle be as deadly as a gun? If you answered "yes", then why otherwise sensible people, in increasing numbers, leaving their precious children, unattended, in vehicles? They often leave the cars running; they also leave kids in their cars on steamy, hot days, with the air off and the windows closed. It seems harmless to leave our kids in our cars for "just a minute" while running into a store or school. But in a short time, a child can suffer heat stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning, remove a seat belt and climb out of the car, start it, put it in gear, or be abducted.

Every year, more and more kids are injured or killed from being left alone in or around vehicles. These are accidents that could have been prevented, accidents that can and should be prevented in the future. To help keep your children safe, it is important to be aware that these are dangerous activities; parents can avoid tragedy by following simple safety precautions:

Always look completely around your car before getting in. Before putting the car in drive/reverse, check your rearview and side mirrors when backing up, especially when children are playing outside. This assures you that no children are playing in front of or behind the vehicle. Even with sensory systems, such as rearview cameras or a “beeping” back-up device, drivers can still hit objects behind them. Children simply cannot safely share space with moving automobiles; a quick walk around your vehicle may save a child’s life and you from forever ruining yours.

Never leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle or allow a child access to one without adult supervision. Make sure children do not have access to the car keys or remote device and keep your vehicle locked at all times, even in the driveway or garage. Children can die from heat stroke or carbon monoxide poisoning. They may also be able to start the vehicle or climb out of the car and wander off or be injured by another vehicle. Vehicle interiors will heat up rapidly to fatal levels. At a mere 70 degrees outside, a vehicle interior can reach dangerous temperatures in minutes. Interior temperatures rise more than 40 degrees in an hour; cracking windows does not keep a vehicle cooler.

And, not so infrequently, children are actually forgotten in cars. A busy, distracted parent, carpool driver, or caregiver, unbelievably, forgets the child is still there, or, forgets that he/she left the child to "run a quick errand" when the errand or distraction becomes protracted. Whatever business you have, it can’t possibly be as important as your children. Other dangerous distractions, like cell phone use, texting and driving can also be fatally dangerous. Place objects of distraction or things that you would never leave your car without (purse, wallet, mobile phone etc.) in the back seat; this will remove temptation to use these objects (texting, putting on make-up, etc) while driving, as well as require you to look back there when stopping and exiting your vehicle.

Teach children that trunks are not for playing and hiding. Children trapped in trunks can die of suffocation or heat stroke. Once in the trunk, they may not be able to get out. Help may not arrive if children cannot be heard. Show children how to locate and use the emergency release found in newer vehicles. If you vehicle is older, invest in a kit to retrofit your car. Check trunks first if you can’t find your child. Time is of the essence.

This message is stuff you already know; I’m not trying to preach to my readers. Yet, despite our knowledge, these events continue to occur; we all need a reminder now and then, right? Many outdoor activities, especially in the summer months, attract kids to play on the driveway – drawing with chalk, hopscotch, riding a bike. These kid-safe activities can easily turn from fun to tragedy. Children can not be depended upon to recognize a dangerous situation around a moving or non-moving vehicle. Only vehicle owners and drivers can prevent these senseless automobile related, accidental, tragedies. Please thoroughly check around your vehicle before getting in, and never leave children unattended in a vehicle, even for a minute.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.