I had the idea to write on this topic at the beginning of the summer, to prepare for the hot days that were sure to come. Sadly, since the beginning of the summer it seems like a week has not passed where the news has not reported on the death, or near death, of a child due to heatstroke caused from being left unattended in a car. In 2013, there were 44 hyperthermia related deaths of children in hot cars, and so far this year, 18 have occurred since mid-April. You can read the stories about 17 of them in this weather.com article.
KidsAndCars.org reports that currently 19 states have laws that make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle. The legal ramifications, though, are the least of concerns for a parent who experiences such a tragic loss. Whether the mishap occurs though a lapse in memory or through not realizing the potential danger, most parents would be devastated for life in the event of this occurrence.
Many parents today likely grew up like myself in a world where seatbelts were optional and riding on the back dash of a car was like getting to ride in the Millennium Falcon with hyperdrive; so, sometimes we may need to be reminded of the dangers that could occur to our children—our most precious cargo. A few days ago, the temperature was about 90 degrees here in Dallas, Texas, and my phone did not appreciate me leaving it in the car. You can see the message it gave me when I returned to my car in the picture posted above. When I had realized about an hour later that I did not have my phone in my pocket, I went to get it and saw the temperature on my car thermometer spiked to 109 degrees! It really did not take long to heat up inside my car. As easy as it was for me to assume my phone was in my pocket or backpack, it often happens that parents assume that they’ve already dropped their kid off at daycare, or they may think their children will be fine if they are only gone for “just a minute.” (It’s
rarely never “just a minute.”)
What are some things we can do to help reduce the likelihood of this tragedy occurring?
Some very innovative people have come up with some interesting solutions.
- SafeKids.org recommends putting something in the backseat with our children that we will obviously need upon parking the car. While their list included phone and briefcase, as evidenced by my experience the other day, I think leaving a shoe is a much better recommendation.
- KidsAndCars.org adds to that list by suggesting leaving a stuffed animal in the carseat and placing it in a visual place in the front seat when a child is occupying the vehicle
- Last year an 11-year old named Andrew Pelham from Nashville won a contest for his invention called the E-Z Baby Saver. Check out his website to learn how to make your own.
- There are some other high tech ways under development that provide reminders including this range of devices from a special car seat accessory to a phone app.
The one thing that I hope all the readers of this article do is to talk about this issue with other parents. Just bring it up casually in conversation with your friends. Spreading awareness of the danger is perhaps one of the most needed aspects in helping prevent these tragedies. I know many young parents who haven’t even thought about this issue yet or considered the danger. Just like we try to warn our children before they find themselves in a bad situation, we can help one another by spreading awareness of the potential harm.
Some great information about how to protect children from these and other dangers can be found on the following websites:
And, for those nerdy parents that like to know why a car interior heats up so quickly, here’s an article explaining the Greenhouse effect that is occurring.
Who can you help by sharing information about this topic?
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