Summer Temps-Vehicular Heatstroke-KidsandCars.org
Posted on June 21st, 2022 by Zane Cagle
Tragedies such as hot-car deaths are back in the forefront of news. As our summer temperatures soar, the time that it takes for a child to lose their life while locked in car is short. These tragedies occur every summer and happen to the best of parents. The tragedy that occurred in Texas yesterday does not read like a negligent parent. Statistically, these incidents happen every year to the most vigilant parents.
KidsAndCars.org is a great website to visit as the focus of their organization is safety of children in and around non-moving vehicles. Children being left inadvertently in a hot vehicle is a primary focus of KidsAndCars.org. Many parents involved in this organization speak from horrifying personal experience of loss. If you have children in your care, please review their safety recommendations. When I was a new parent over a decade ago, these safety recommendations meant a lot to my family as there were every day simple strategies that we could implement as a safety layer for the everyday distractions and exhaustion of parenting.
There are an average of 38 deaths per year due to children inadvertently being left in cars. In 2018, there was a record 54 deaths. Last year that number dropped to 23, however, we also spent far less time in vehicles to the pandemic. Temperatures have rocketed up in the last couple of weeks and most everyone has returned to their regular travel. Based on my involvement in KidsandCars.org, every parent personally involved in these nightmares share their horrific experiences for one reason–prevention.
Death of Infant During Washington DC Press Conference to Prevent Hot Car Deaths
Yesterday, the president of KidsAndCars.org, parents who have lost children in hot cars, and safety advocates all convened in Washington DC to talk about technology for car manufacturers that is available to help stop these fatalities. The press conference also promoted awareness that these tragic hot car deaths can happen to the children of the best of parents. At the same time this press conference was happening in Washington DC, an infant died inside a daycare van in Jacksonville, Florida. This 5 month-old child is the eighth hot car death victim this year in the U.S. There are never any words to describe the pain and horror when one of these needless tragedies occur. We cannot begin to comprehend the loss these families experience. Many of us find it extremely painful to even try to comprehend or emphasize as it is just too horrifying. Hence, we dismiss it as something that could never happen which ironically is the very way it happens most.
Today, Janette Fennell and parent advocate, Miles Harrison testified before Congress on the need for technology implementation to prevent hot car death tragedies. Since the 1990’s when experts required child safety seats be moved to the back seat due to the dangers of air bags, we saw this horrible phenomenon of children inadvertently being left in cars. According to research, when parents are out of their daily routine, these events can happen far easier that one would expect.
Dr. Diamond from the University of South Florida describes “Forgotten Baby Syndrome” far better than we do here. He explains it as competing parts of the human brain, “The brain habit memory systems has the capacity to completely suppress the cognitive memory system, thereby providing a neurobiological explanation of how FBS can occur. Any one of these changes can cause your memory to fail at a time when you least expect it”. Read more of his research here. Clearly, since the 90’s, education efforts and public awareness has been at an all time high, yet the number of child deaths due to hot cars is also at an all time high of 52 last year. According to Fennell, “As a country, we are failing our children each day because this effective technology is not included as standard equipment in every vehicle. What are we waiting for? How many more children have to die?” Every year we do multiple stories about child vehicular heatstroke and we do see a progression of responses based on education and awareness.
By definition if you are a parent of a young child, you probably have sleep deprivation and your life requires multi-tasking. The first safety step is realizing that it could happen to you, no matter how great of a parent you are. Take steps to insure it doesn’t happen to your family. Following the safety suggestions gives you an immediate action to take when you hear about these horrifying deaths. In fact, we share these stories for the sole purpose of raising awareness to prevent one more child’s needless death.
Summer is supposed to be a fun time of year for family. Unfortunately, it also starts the most dangerous time of the year for child deaths due to vehicular heat stroke. KidsandCars.org was one of the first organizations that brought national attention to nontraffic incidents of children in and around motor vehicles. “Nontraffic” is defined as any vehicle related injury or death occurring off public road or highways, mainly in parking lots or driveways.
Prevention by Realizing It Can Happen to the Best of Parents
The very thought of inadvertently hurting your child is so appalling that so many people must dismiss these scenarios and comfort themselves by thinking it could never happen to them. An average, 38 children die from heat-related deaths inside vehicles every year. This nightmare does not only occur to “substandard” parents (each has their own definition of substandard), but it can happen to any kind of parent. These tragic stories have occurred to nurses, doctor’s, dentists, bank presidents and welders. Any parent that is sleep deprived multi-taskers and doesn’t that include just about all of us? Thus, this tragedy can literally happen to ANY PARENT, no matter how attentive that parent or child care provider is and no matter wealth, class or race.
The idea that you might inadvertently cause your own child’s death is so horrific and repugnant and most of us simply cannot process it. It is so much easier to dismiss it as carelessness and feel superior and bask in the knowledge that you are far too attentive to let that happen. After reading the stories, these very parents who lost their children thought it would never happen to them.
Take Steps in Preventing the Worse Case Scenario
My level of awareness was invigorated in 2011 when I came across Janette Fennell and KidsandCars.com at a conference when my kids were small. We child proof our houses including door and drawer locks, safety gates and covers for the outlets, why wouldn’t we child proof our car? We spend so much time as parents thinking about our child’s safety and planning around it, why wouldn’t we use some simple reminders to avoid one of the worst nightmares of any parent?
These steps are not difficult and are not time-consuming. As parents, we know that safety is about layers. When you have several layers of safety, it is harder for multiple layers to fail before you notice. We implement safety layers around the pool, so why wouldn’t we do that with our vehicles?
We all know that parents suffer exhaustion, so these safety steps simply help the exhausted parent avoid the worst nightmare.
MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS NEVER LEFT ALONE IN A CAR:
Make a habit of opening the back door every time you park to ensure that no one is left behind.
To enforce this habit, place an item that you cannot start your day without in the back seat such as employee badge, laptop, cell phone, purse--anything you are absolutely going to have to have to start your day. I personally found this one to be extremely helpful. I wasn’t going to be able to start my day without my wallet or my cell phone, so I would place these in the seat beside my child, out of the child’s reach, of course.
Clearly announce and confirm who is getting each child out of the vehicle. Miscommunication can lead to everyone thinking someone else removed the child. This may sound silly, but if you have several children, this can lead to miscommunication when everyone is trying to get out and go in the house to cool off in the summer. The sleeping child may be inadvertently forgotten.
Ask your child care provider to call you right away if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled. (A daycare has adverted many close calls by calling the parent right away if the child doesn’t show up at daycare and the parent realizes they left them in the car. These stories are not often shared, but this plan has saved more than one child)
MAKE SURE YOUR CHILDREN CANNOT GET INTO A PARKED CAR:
Keep your vehicles locked at all times especially in the garage or driveway. Children can be playing and accidentally lock themselves in the car. Children playing in or around the vehicles is never, never a good idea.
Never leave car keys within reach of children. Children model their parents behavior. If a child can reach the car, they may go start it and move the car in a sense of play and modeling their parents. As children see their parents do this everyday, it’s amazing what they can do in modeling while they play. Never let children play in or around parked cars.
If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and truck of all vehicles in the area very carefully. Children like to hide, but they hiding places in a hot vehicle can become deadly
If you have suggestions about promoting child safety, please do contact us. If you have been injured in incident that is not your fault and have questions, please call us with questions.