Nationwide, temperatures are increasing and a child advocacy group called Safe Kids USA, along with National Health and Safety Partners is starting a new campaign this spring to bring public awareness and expose the tragedy of “Forgotten Child” deaths.
Since 1998, over 445 children have died from heat stroke and many more have been injured; left unattended in automobiles. Parents and caregivers do not do this intentionally, but because of laziness and sometimes just plain busyness, they expose their children to dangerously high heat levels in cars.
Safety experts remind parents that a child’s body will heat up 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s and a child left strapped in a car seat has no way of protecting themselves. In less than 10 minutes, a child’s body temperature can rise to 106 degrees-high enough to cause a stroke.
Recently here in Orange County, we had two incidences within 3 days of each other where parents had intentionally left their child in the car alone. In one incidence, a woman left a four year old in a locked car, watching a movie, and then went shopping in Mission Viejo. When the deputy found the girl, she had unbuckled her seat and was playing with the keys to the ignition. Not only was this vehicle at dangerously high heat levels, the risk of child abduction and unintentional car movement was a real possibility.
However in 51% of these hyperthermia cases, the child is literally “forgotten” by the parent or caregiver. Parents that intentionally leave their kids in the cars are around 18% of the time and in 30% of the cases, children are found to have climbed into an unlocked car.
In the fall of 2001, California’s governor signed into law, Kaitlin’s Law: Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Act. It was named for a six -month old who died after being left in a park car for over two hours. The law clearly states that no child 6 years or younger may be left alone in a car unless a person over 12 years of age is watching them.
Whether you are a caregiver or parent, here are a few safety tips to remember:
· If you ever see a child left unattended in a car, please call 911
· Teach your children never to play in and around cars, and make it a habit of always locking your vehicle.
· Keys are not toys, keep keys away from your child.
· Never leave kids in a running car, even for one minute.
· When loading and unloading your vehicles, always double check that all children have left the car.
The Author James Ballidis is a child advocate, author and practices as an Orange County personal injury lawyer. For other articles on child injuries, playground hazards and protection of children see child dangers articles.