Do you know that 49 children died last year from heat stroke in cars? It happened three times in one day, the worst day. The facts in each case vary, somewhat; but, in each case, there is that terrible moment when a parent realizes what he/she has done, often through a phone call from a spouse or caregiver. The phone call is followed by a frantic sprint to the car. And 49 times, last year, a parent’s worst nightmare was realized.
Last year’s statistics are staggering; but here’s another sobering statistic: It is only June 9, and 8 more children have become victims in 2011. With many more hot summer days to come, a caring organization, KidsAndCards.org is warning parents and caregivers to take extra precautions so that they may avoid leaving children alone in vehicles and experiencing the ultimate tragedy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that these types of incidents are the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths.
Janette Fennell is founder and president of KidsAndCars.org; this national nonprofit child safety organization’s sole mission is to prevent injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles. Since 1998 when the organization began tracking data and working on the issue, more than 500 children have died in these preventable tragedies. That is an average of almost 40 preventable deaths per year.
So, why are these deaths happening with such frequency? Stories are similar; they usually involve a parent who has unintentionally left his/her child in the back seat. Busy parents may have been late for work, deviated from a normal routine, or be distracted by a cell phone or thoughts of future events of a soon-to-be-busy day. These distractions change lives forever. And, please, do not believe for an instant that this can’t happen to you or a child in your care. Even the most educated, conscientious, and loving parents can forget a sleeping baby in the back seat.
You may be asking yourself – how can a parent fail to remember their own child? A combination of sleep deprivation, stress, and change of routine are often contributing factors in memory failure that has, in past cases, led to child vehicular heat stroke. 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 the load because the phone rang, or the kids are fighting or need lunch? Have you ever put something on the stove and forgot about it? Remember the old Steve Martin routine? There is an exhausting list of “I forgot’s”.
To prevent child vehicular heat stroke death:
•Never leave a child unattended inside a motor vehicle – even if the air-conditioning is on or a window is cracked.
•Never let children play in or around a parked car.
•Always keep the vehicle locked, even in your garage.
•Make it routine to put your handbag, wallet, cell phone or laptop on the floor of the backseat.
•Make it a habit to open the back door and look in the backseat of your vehicle before locking the doors and walking away.
•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.
Lawsuit Financial supports any effort to prevent senseless injuries or deaths to children. Most trial lawyers are pleased to become involved in safety efforts that help prevent such tragedies, rather than becoming involved, afterwards, to pursue justice for someone who has experienced it. Trial lawyer involvement in KidsAndCars.org is one good example. The Keenan Kids Foundation, the brain child of Atlanta Georgia trial lawyer Don Keenan, is another. This foundation provides training and financial resources to prevent playground injuries. To receive additional information or to lend your support to either or both of these wonderful organizations, please visit their websites at KidsAndCars.org or Keenan Kids Foundation.