An unfortunate milestone has been reached. The number of children who have died from heat exhaustion inside vehicles has risen dramatically. Eight hundred children have died in hot cars since records began in 1998, according to NoHeatStroke.org.
On average, 38 children die each year in hot cars, according to the safety organization Kids and Cars. That’s about one death every nine days. Last year the fatalities were the highest recorded with 52 deaths. Between 1998 and 2018, Florida had the second highest deaths with 88, according to NoHeatStroke.org.
Two-thirds of the heating is within the first 20 minutes, “Cracking” the windows had little (i.e., < 3 deg.) effect, and vehicle interior color is probably the biggest factor.
Cars Become Ovens
Cars transform into ovens when direct sunlight heats objects inside. Temperatures can soar to 120 or 130 degrees even when the outdoor temperature is only in the 80s. The body’s natural cooling methods, such as sweating, begin to shut down once the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees. Death can occur at 107 degrees.
Why Are Children Getting Left in Cars?
1. Forgetting a child in the car can happen to anyone, Arizona State University psychologist Gene Brewer said last year. “Often these stories involve a distracted parent,” Brewer said. “Memory failures are remarkably powerful, and they happen to everyone. There is no difference between gender, class, personality, race or other traits. Functionally, there isn’t much of a difference between forgetting your keys and forgetting your child in the car.”
2. Children having access to an unlocked car or to the car keys. When a car is in the driveway or the garage, it is a perfect place for children to play hide and seek, or pretend to drive like adults do. Once in the car, a child may not be able to get back out or by the time they feel the effects of the heat, it is too late.
3. A child not getting out of the car, van or bus with the rest of the children, and it is assumed that everyone is accounted for.
4. A caregiver knowingly leaving a child in the car for “just a moment,” to run into the store or other quick errand.
Hot Cars Act of 2019
Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, has been campaigning for a warning device to alert a driver to the presence of a child in the back seat for two decades.
“Education of caregivers is at an all-time high,” Ms. Fennell said, “so deaths shouldn’t be at an all-time high.”
Ms. Fennell has again asked Congress to act, with the Hot Cars Act of 2019. In addressing the House’s Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee on May 23 about the bill, she said, “Once and for all we must reach an agreement that education alone will not and cannot put an end to these needless tragedies.”
The House bill, which is due to be introduced in June 2019, is expected to require an audible warning if someone is in the back seat after the engine is turned off. Such technology is already standard on the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Santa Fe, providing an alert if ultrasonic sensors detect child or pet movement in the second and third row.
Are You Taking the Proper Steps To Ensure It Won’t Happen to You?
“We all spend a great deal of time and money to childproof our home,” says Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org. “We need to childproof our car with the same care.” She advises taking multiple steps to make sure you always remember your child in the car:
1. Be extra alert if your routine changes. That’s when the risk of unintentionally leaving your child in your car increases.
2. Put something of your child’s, like a toy, on the front seat. Even if you can’t see your child in the backseat (especially if he’s in a rear-facing car seat), the toy should trigger a reminder that he’s there.
3. Leave an item you’ll need at your next destination in the backseat, such as your cell phone, purse, or briefcase.
4. Place your child’s car seat in the middle of the backseat rather than behind the driver. That way, it’s easier to see her in your rearview mirror.
5. Set up a system with your child-care provider. If you don’t plan to drop off your child that day, call her. If the child doesn’t arrive as expected, have the caregiver call you.
6. Discuss the topic of hot-car deaths with every person who drives your child anywhere. This includes partners, grandparents, babysitters, and friends.
7. Always “look before you lock.” Get in the habit of checking the backseat every time you get out of the car.
Finally, if you see any child in a car seat alone in a car, call 911.
New Backseat Technology
While we hope we never forget our children or children we are caring for in the car, it is important to get them out of the backseat as soon as possible. An article in Mother.ly.com provides a list of new backseat technology that can lessen the risk of kids being left behind.
– Cars 4 Kids Safety App
– The Backseat App
– Built-in Car Seat Alarms
– Bee Alert Child Auto Alarm
If you’ve been the victim of an accident caused by another’s carelessness, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Instead, put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve.
Joe Zarzaur, founder of Zarzaur Law, P.A., a Pensacola Personal Injury law firm, has created this blog in an effort to educate the many citizens and visitors of Pensacola, Florida about their legal rights. Joe Zarzaur knows the ins and outs of Florida law, and offers friendly-quality legal help whether you have experienced an auto accident/car wreck, have been a victim of medical malpractice or are in need of a personal injury lawyer. For more information, visit: https://www.zarzaurlaw.com
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