With the summer season fast approaching, it is time to think seriously about the special danger posed by children being left in cars during the hot Summer months. Even the most loving parents and caregivers can unintentionally leave a child in a car, such as a baby sleeping in a rear car seat. Sometimes a child may enter the car on their own. However, as we are all too well aware, the consequences can be severe when a child is left in a closed motor vehicle during the hotter times of the year. Doing so can lead to serious injury and even death. Perhaps, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it does not have to be a particularly hot day for a child to be at risk. Even on a day when the temperature is as low as 60 degrees, the interior temperate of a car or truck can hit 110 degrees. Once the body temperature of a child reaches 107 degrees, they will likely die.
According to noheathstroke.org, on average, 37 instances of children succumbing to heatstroke take place each year. Again, motor vehicle related heatstroke can happen well before a lot of the country begins to experience what we consider to be warm weather. There was already a case this year in which a child in Miami, Florida, died as a result of being left behind in a vehicle by accident. Typically, such tragedies occur by virtue of parents and caregivers being distracted and/or overwhelmed in the face of fast pace of every day life. That’s why it is extremely important to slow down and think when exiting a car or truck when traveling with children.
In order to protect your family and loved ones and the children in your community, as a public service, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States Department of Transportation recommends that all parents and caregivers adhere to the following practices when traveling with children:
- Before remotely or manually locking your vehicle make sure to check the back seats of your car or truck.
- Use a visual cue such as stuffed animal to keep in the child’s car seat when the seat is empty. When a child is in the back seat, you would then move the reminder to the front. By doing so, you will likely remember that a child is buckled in the back of the car. Another similar tip would be to place personal electronics (like a mobile phone), a pocketbook, briefcase, or small piece of luggage in the back seat to make sure you will retrieve the item when you reach your destination and thereby see your child sitting in the back near the item.
- In situations in which a friend, family member or professional driver is responsible for transporting your child, at the estimated time of arrival you can call the driver or the place of destination to make sure that your child has arrived safely.
- When not traveling and when you know that no one is in your car or truck, it should be kept locked at all times in order to prevent a child from getting in. Likewise, the key to the vehicle should be kept in a place where a child of tender years does not have access to it.
- If you ever see a child alone in any type of vehicle, do not hesitate and call 911. If the child appears to be in distress is non-responsive, take action to remove the child from the car, and then call 911 if you have not already done so.
- Prevention is the key. By understanding the very real danger involved, planning can take place so that the tragedy of heatstroke does not strike in the first place.
The attorneys at Liever, Hyman & Potter, P.C., are concerned for the safety children and families traveling on the roads and highways in Berks County and Schuylkill County, and serve auto, truck, bus and motorcycle accident victims and their families in Reading, PA, Pottsville, PA, and throughout Eastern and Central Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia.
From the desk of Adam K. Levin, Esquire.