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Recently here in Orange County, California, temperatures have skyrocketed up into the 100’s. One unfortunate statistics that goes way up during the late spring and early summer months is leaving your babies and young children in a locked, unventilated car. Nationally In 2007, there were over 749 incidences that caused personal injury to 962 kids, sadly, 187 fatalities occurred. This was the highest fatally rate to date.

Last May, Hayley Wesley left her daughter, Madison in the back of her car for three hours. Her child died of hyperthermia. This week the prosecutor’s office in California sentenced her to three years in jail. However, when you are responsible for the death of your child, I’m sure she will feel guilt for the rest of her life for this tragic error in judgment.

Since the early 1990’s, there has been a tenfold increase in young children’s deaths due to hyperthermia. One theory to explain the increases is that since the introduction of front seat airbags, children no longer sit in the front seat of automobiles. In addition, cars have grown larger; people drive more vans and SUV’s which are harder to view in the back. However, by far the most common excuse for this tragedy is that the caregiver or parent just “forgets” their child.

In a study done recently by Injury Prevention Journal, over 47% of children’s caregivers had forgotten that the child or children were in the back of the car. What’s even more disturbing is that 21% of the these children were left intentionally in the car by the parent. Parents and caregivers need to be educated on the dangers of extreme temperatures that rise quickly in a locked automobile.

In the average closed car, the temperature will increase 19 degrees Fahrenheit in only 10 minutes. After 20 minutes, the increase is 29 degrees and so on. After one hour, the temperature has risen to 45-50 degrees over and above what the temperature is outside. Cracking the window does not have a big factor in cooling the interior of the automobile.
Whether there is a change in a routine or feeling overloaded, sometimes parents do and will forget their kids. Fortunately, some technology devices have recently been created to prevent these types of tragedies. One keychain-type device, developed by a NASA engineer is called the “Child Presence Sensor”. It fits on your key chain and when you exit the car without removing your child from their car seat, the device will beep. Another simpler device is the “Baby Safety Line”. It literally is a colored plastic line that attaches a hook to your baby’s seat on one end, to your ignition keys or dashboard on the other. California is one of only 12 states that have laws against leaving children unattended in cars.

It is illegal to leave a child under the age of six years in a car alone, except if there is another person 12 years or older. For our families sake, let’s all slow down a little as we enter into the summer season. Keep your kids hydrated with plenty of water, keep your vehicle cool and don’t leave your children unattended for any amount of time.

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