The national vehicle safety advocacy organization KidsAndCars.org had some sobering news for the public this week: 7 children died in hot cars in the first week of August. Families in Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida and New Mexico are suffering the severe tragedy of losing a child to heat stroke after being left in hot vehicles. The details of the individual incidents, according to a news release from KidsAndCars.org, are:
- On Aug. 2 in Smyrna, Tenn., a boy, 3, and girl, 2, died after being left in their mother's vehicle.
- On Aug. 2 in Tamarac, Fla., a boy, 4, died after being left behind in a daycare van.
- On Aug. 3 in Springdale, Ark., a boy, 2, died after being left in his great-grandparents' vehicle.
- On Aug. 3 in Newport, Ark., a girl, 16 months, died in a hot vehicle.
- On Aug. 4 in Benton County, Ark., a boy, 3, died after getting into a vehicle and not being able to escape.
- On Aug. 6 in Albuquerque, N.M., a boy, 2, died after being left in a daycare parking lot.
For many of us, these deaths seem completely unimaginable. But KidsAndCars.org has been working on this important safety issue for years and knows that it’s all too easy for even the best, most attentive parents and caregivers to find themselves in a tragic situation like this one. A change in routine, an unusually busy morning, even just a brief distraction can lead to a young child being left in a hot car.
To combat this vehicle safety issue, KidsAndCars.org has engaged in educational and awareness campaigns, such as the Look Before you Lock campaign. Central to this is changing the behavior of the caregiver with some simple “BE SAFE” reminders:
Back seat – Put something in the back seat so you have to open the door when leaving the vehicle – cell phone, employee badge, handbag, etc.
Every child should be correctly restrained in the back seat.
Stuffed animal – Move it from the car seat to the front seat to remind you when your baby is in the back seat.
Ask your babysitter or child-care provider to call you within 10 minutes if your child hasn't arrived on time.
Focus on driving – Avoid cell phone calls and texting while driving.
Every time you park your vehicle open the back door to make sure no one has been left behind.
But in addition to campaigns aimed at changing care-giver behavior, the organization is also working with NHTSA to develop technology that might help prevent these deaths from happening. Currently, that technology takes the form of the TOMY First Years Convertible Care Seat with IAlert. The car seat comes equipped with a monitoring device that will send an alert to a caregiver’s smart phone if the seat is left in the car of a non-moving vehicle. It also monitors other factors that could put child safety at risk.
Preventing child heat strokes is going to take a combination of technology, education campaigns, and changes in driver behavior. But when it comes to the safety our children and the well-being of families, we can’t be careful enough.