Parents, caregivers and the community at large all have a role to play in helping prevent heat stroke-related fatalities involving children left behind in cars during summer.
Those fatalities are already at record numbers in 2015. So far this year, there have been 11 fatalities involving children who were left behind in heated cars, by parents or caregivers. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Safe Kids Worldwide commemorated National Heat Stroke Prevention Day, and the agency specifically focused on parents and caregivers, asking them to take precautions to prevent such fatalities in vehicles.
NHTSA has also released a new technical report that would help auto manufacturers in the development of appropriate technologies to help prevent such fatalities. There is no doubt that there is much that manufacturers can do to help prevent such needless fatalities every year. From warning systems to alarms and special child car seats, manufacturers are already working on, or have introduced technology to help parents prevent such fatalities. These devices however, are intended for use as add-ons, and their effectiveness is currently being debated.
Many of these fatalities occur in families that would never have believed that such tragedies could occur to them. Contrary to what people may believe, the car need not have windows completely rolled up for a fatality like this to occur. During summer, even a vehicle with windows rolled down 2 inches can heat up to unbearable temperatures. With a vehicle like this, temperatures can reach high levels within 10 minutes, very quickly placing the child inside at serious risk of suffocation or heat stroke.
To prevent a tragedy like this in your family, never leave a child alone in a vehicle and unattended, even if the windows are only partially closed. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your child is safe, if the engine is running or the air-conditioning is on.
Get into the habit of checking the backseat every time you exit the vehicle and walk away.
If you see a child left behind in a vehicle, immediately alert 911, or your local emergency services.
Until such time as electronic reminder systems make their appearance in cars, truly minimizing the potential for human errors, parents and caregivers must be vigilant against such errors.