A 16-month-old Lansdowne, Maryland, girl is among several infants and young children who have died this summer as the result of being left in hot vehicles. A relative told police that he forgot to drop the girl off at day care on July 5. When he discovered her four hours later and took her to the hospital, it was too late to save her.
So far this year in the U.S., 18 children have died after being left in hot cars. That is about on par with the average number. According to the website KidsandCars.org, nearly forty children suffer heat-related vehicle deaths every year in this country. With weeks and potentially months ahead of record-breaking temperatures, experts are getting the word in the media out about precautions that parents and caregivers can take to prevent such unnecessary tragedies.
One part of the problem is that people underestimate how hot a closed-up car can get, and how quickly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), even when the outside temperature is in the 60s, the interior of a car can reach over 110 degrees. The temperature can rise twenty degrees in just ten minutes.
Many people think that cracking the window a bit will keep their child safe if left for just a few minutes. However, the NHTSA warns that if the temperature outside is in the 80s, the inside of a vehicle can become hot enough to kill a child in just ten minutes, even with the windows down a couple of inches. Because children's bodies do not regulate heat like adult bodies do, a child's body temperature can rise three to five times as quickly.
KidsandCars.org provides tips to help parents ensure that they do not forget their child amidst the chaos of their day. These include things like placing your purse, briefcase or something you will need to remove when you reach your destination next to your child. There are also car seat alarms you can purchase that sound when you turn off the engine.
Attorneys who specialize in child injury law can attest to the fact that many of their cases involve the negligence of relatives or caregivers. Although nothing can make up for the injury or death of a child, people can be held criminally and/or civilly responsible for actions that cause harm to a child. Even if parents take every precaution themselves, they need to ensure that anyone else who is transporting or caring for their child is equally vigilant.
Golden Valley Patch, "Hot Weather Warning: Prevent Tragedy, Don't Leave Babies In the Car" Stefanie Briggs, Jul. 14, 2013