Children continue to die in hot vehicles – and parents and families across the country endure the worst nightmare imaginable. Yet, most parents still think it could never happen to them.
For the first time, a Connecticut mother of three whose 15-month old toddler, Benjamin, lost his life on July 7, 2014 will speak out and join the effort to educate the public about these dangers. She is launching a website (www.thegiftofben.com) to honor Benjamin’s life and help raise awareness of this grave public policy concern. “After the tragic death of my son, I began researching as much as I could to try to wrap my brain around how and why this happens to people like my husband – we are responsible, conscientious, loving parents. We could be you, your neighbors, your best friends,” said Lindsey Rogers-Seitz. “Ben was cherished so, and losing him in this manner has brought a profound grief. We realize that we cannot allow others to feel this pain needlessly, so we are urging automobile and car seat manufacturers, legislators, regulators, health and safety experts, victims and other interested parties to come together to quickly find the most effective solution before more lives are lost,” she said.
KidsAndCars.org launched a “We the People” petition drive on the White House petition website (http://bit.ly/petitionkac). The petition will encourage the Obama Administration to authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide funding for research and development of innovative technology to detect a child left alone in the rear seat of a vehicle. On National Heat Stroke Prevention Day the KidsAndCars.org team will urge the public to sign their petition to the White House (calling for innovation and technology to prevent children from being left behind in vehicles).
In the past 20 years more than 670 U.S. children have died in hot cars. Already in 2014 at least 18 children have died in hot cars, reports KidsAndCars.org, the leading national nonprofit group dedicated solely to preventing injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles The number of child heat stroke deaths in vehicles continues to average 38 per year, or about one every 9 days.
KidsandCars.org works with David Diamond, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida who studies the brain and memory, including people who have unknowingly forgotten children. He finds that, “These memory errors are committed by normal, attentive and loving parents. Many of these parents had believed that they could never forget their children, until their children died,” he said. “Scientific studies confirm that you can’t assume your memory will never fail, and the consequences of a memory failure can be tragic.” Unfortunately, people still do not understand that this can happen to absolutely anyone. Heat stroke is the leading cause of noncrash vehicle fatalities for children 14 and younger. These tragedies are not only predictable, but also very preventable.
KidsAndCars.org, along with other child-safety advocacy groups and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will mark National Heat Stroke Prevention Day on Thursday, July 31. The entire day will be focused on increased efforts to raise awareness and educate parents and caregivers about ways to prevent children from being unknowingly left alone in a hot vehicle. Participating agencies will also post social media messages throughout the day, asking people to share the posts on Facebook and retweet using #heatstroke.
A parked car can reach 125 degrees in minutes, even when the windows are partially open. Children are especially vulnerable to heat stroke, as their body temperatures rise three to five times faster than an adult’s.
All parents need to carefully follow the guidelines for placing car seats in the back seat – the safest place for children to ride. Additionally, babies should ride rear-facing in their child safety seat till age 2, according to the guidelines prescribed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
At the same time, parents must understand that while requiring children to ride in the back seat has saved thousands of lives, it also requires drivers to take extra precautions to avoid children from being unknowingly left alone in a vehicle. “Following the KidsAndCars.org Look Before You Lock safety education tips doesn’t cost a penny, and provides several layers of protection so your child will not be unknowingly left in a vehicle,” Fennell added. “We never know when there might be a day that our memory fails us, so we urge parents to implement these easy-to-follow instructions so that they become a habit for them and all who care for their child.”
KidsAndCars.org’s Look Before You Lock safety education tips include:
Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to check to make sure no child – or pet – has been left behind.
Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. Right before the child is placed in the seat, move the stuffed animal to the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that your child is in the back seat.
Put something you’ll need on the floorboard in the back seat in front of your child’s car seat (cellphone, handbag, employee ID, briefcase, left shoe, etc.). This ensures you open the back door of your vehicle to retrieve your belongings.
Make arrangements with your daycare provider or babysitter to call you within 10 minutes if your child does not arrive as expected.
Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute. Instead, use drive-thru services when available.
Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway, and keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
When a child is missing, call 911 and check the inside of vehicles and car trunks immediately.
Note: 18 children have already died in hot cars this year