Vehicular heatstroke. Every nine days, one child dies from a heat-related death from being trapped inside a vehicle. Every nine days! That is an average of 37 children per year, according to KidsandCars.org.
Last month, a toddler died after being left in a hot car for up to five hours. According to reports, the mother found her child in his car seat in the back of the car and started screaming, alerting the neighbors, who rushed out and began performing CPR. First responders took over when they arrived, but the child never regained consciousness. “One family member thought the other family member was taking the child out of the vehicle,” according to police. “When they got back in the vehicle and went home, they discovered the child was still in the vehicle.” Temperatures reached 82 degrees on the day of the fatal incident.
Sadly, there are far-too-many stories where children have been inadvertently left in vehicles or have gotten into a vehicle on their own.
A car is like an oven!
Even when the outdoor temperature of 60 degrees, the interior of a car can reach 110 degrees, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). So, how hot do you think a vehicle can get on a 90-degree day? The NHTSA says, “The interior temperature of a vehicle in direct sunlight can increase to 131 to 172 degrees Fahrenheit when external temperatures are in the range of 80 to 100.”
While most parents are confident that they could never accidentally leave a child in the car, thinking it could never happen to you is a big mistake. Even the most educated, conscientious, loving, and attentive parents can be lulled by the silence of a sleeping baby. Busy parents often suffer from fatigue; some may be late for work. Sometimes they will deviate from a normal routine, or become distracted by a cell phone.
When things run smoothly, a person can multi-task fairly well; add one of these factors or distractions and that ability is diminished. Think about it. How many of you throw in a load of laundry, then forget about it because the phone rang, or the kids are fighting or need lunch? Have you ever put something on the stove and forgot about it until the content of the pot boils over?
KidsAndCars.org is a national nonprofit child safety organization at the forefront of raising awareness and educating the public about non-traffic incidents to prevent injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles.
The technology exists to prevent these deaths. You get a warning if you forget your keys in the ignition, so why not a warning if you forget your child in the back seat?
Last September, U.S. Representatives from Ohio, New York and Illinois introduced the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (HOT CARS Act of 2016, H.R. 6041), a critical piece of legislation that would prevent children from being needlessly killed and injured when left alone in vehicles. The HOT CARS Act calls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require that new vehicles alert drivers when there’s an unattended passenger.
Some technological progress has been made, such as General Motors’ Rear Seat Reminder. The device is activated any time the rear door is opened and closed within 10 minutes before the vehicle is started, or if they doors opened and closed while the vehicle is running (two signs that children or pets are being placed in the back seat).
As legislation and technology slowly begin to end these tragedies parents and caregivers can take specific actions to dramatically reduce the chances of accidentally leaving a child in a hot car.
- Never leave a child unattended inside a motor vehicle – not even for a minute and not even if the air-conditioning is on or a window is cracked.
- Never let children play in or around a parked car.
- Create a reminder for yourself by placing your purse, wallet, cell phone, briefcase, laptop, or left show in the backseat.
- Get into the habit of looking before you lock. Open the backdoor and look in the backseat to assure that everyone is out of the car (even if you think you are childless).
- Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When baby is in the seat, the stuffed animal rides in the front passenger seat. The furry passenger serves as a reminder that baby’s in the back.
- Ask your babysitter or child-care provider to call you within 10 minutes if your child hasn’t arrived on time.
- Avoid distractions while you are driving. Putting the cell phone in the back seat not only reduces the risks of a serious or deadly accident caused by inattentive driving; it also helps prevent leaving your child in the vehicle unattended.
- Always lock the doors. Even if the car is in the garage, keep the doors locked to prevent curious children from getting into the car.
- Keys and remote openers should never be left within reach of children.
- If a child is missing, immediately check the inside and trunk of all vehicles in the area very carefully.
For more information or to lend your support in an effort to keep children safe in and around vehicles, visit kidsandcars.org.
Mark Bello has practiced law for 40 years. He is currently the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company, and the author of the legal thriller “Betrayal of Faith” available on major online book store sites.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.