- So far in 2011, at least 10 children have died, including a fivemonth old girl in Kennesaw on May 25
- Forty-nine children died in 2010, the highest number of fatalities for a one-year period
- From 1998—2011, at least 501 children died, an average of 38 per year (1 in every 10 days)
- Ages of child fatalities due to vehicular hyperthermia range from five days to 14 years
These are unnecessary deaths, and we’re all at risk.
Contributing Factors – Forgetfulness More Often than Neglect
Who leaves a child in a hot car? Anyone who takes care of a child, be it a parent or other family member, babysitter – or - even you. Yes, count yourself as a person at risk of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
Common reasons why caregivers leave a child in a car include busyness, change in normal routine, sleep deprivation, stress, fatigue and distractions. Any or all of these stressors can lead to forgetfulness, the primary culprit in this preventable tragedy.
On a sunny 70-degree day, the temperature in a car can rise as much as 19 degrees in just 10 minutes. Even in a parked car with the windows partially down, the temperature can quickly reach upwards of 125 degrees. A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s, compounding the seriousness of the situation.
Kids and Cars, a national nonprofit child safety organization dedicated to preventing injuries and death to children in or around motor vehicles, offers these safety recommendations:
- Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute
- Put something you'll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., on the floor board in the back seat
- Last In, First Out…Make it a rule to put the child "in" the car last and take the child "out" first
- Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. This will soon become a habit. Look Before You Lock.
What You Can Do as a Citizen
If you see a child alone in a parked vehicle, speak up! Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Also, be aware of Georgia laws about child safety and push for legislation that addresses children being left alone in cars. Ask your car manufacturer about the current or future availability of safety devices.
A part of raising healthy communities is working together to keep our children safe, no matter where they are.
-Story by Doris R. Konneh, DCH Training and Outreach Coordinator, Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentives Program