As the summer season quickly approaches, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would like to remind parents and caregivers about the dangers of leaving children alone in cars. Every summer, there are an increased number of serious injuries sustained by children who are abandoned in hot vehicles.
Last week, we reported the death of a 13 month-old in Lee's Summit, who died after being left in his mother's car all day. The mother reportedly believed she had already dropped the boy off at day care. On the same day, a 7 month-old died in Texas after being left in his father's pickup truck for several hours. In that instance, the father, who didn't normally transport the child to day care, "became distracted after dropping off the older kids," according to MSNBC. In general, more than half of children who die after being left in hot vehicles are simply forgotten by caregivers who were rushed or stressed.
NHTSA research illustrates the heightened risk of serious injury or death for children, accidentally or purposely, left in vehicles in the heat. Hyperthermia, or heat-stroke, is a leading cause of death for children under the age of 14.
Our Missouri personal injury attorneys would like parents to be extra cautious when exiting their vehicle during the summer months. Tragedies may also occur under the watch of babysitters, daycare centers, schools and summer camps. We urge you to talk with day care employees, school employees and caregivers to stress the important of checking for children when they leave their motor vehicles. You should ask that you be notified immediately if any of the parties notice that your child did not arrive on-time to a destination. According to NHTSA, at least 27 documented deaths caused by children being left in hot motor vehicles are reported each year.
NHTSA offers you these tips to help prevent your child from getting left in a vehicle and experiencing hyperthermia:
• Never ever leave an infant or a child in a vehicle unattended -- not even if the windows are open or the engine is on and the air conditioning is running.
• Do not allow children to play in an unattended vehicle. You should be sure to teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
• Make a habit to look in the vehicle before locking the door and walking away. Be sure to check the front and back seats.
• Request that your child's daycare center call you if your child does not arrive on time for childcare.
• Put your purse, briefcase or another item you need in the back seat. That way, when you go to grab it you'll be sure to see a child left in the vehicle.
• If you have to, write yourself a note and put it where you will see it when you leave the vehicle. This will help you to remember to look for a child before exiting.
• Remember to always lock vehicle doors and trunks. Keep your keys out of child's reach. If your child is missing, check the vehicle first, the front seat, the backseat and the trunk.
• Call 911 or your local emergency number right away if you see a child left alone in a vehicle.
When a child is in distress due to heat, get them out of the vehicle as fast as possible and cool them rapidly. Signs of hyperthermia can include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin. They can also include no sweating, a strong rapid pulse, a slow weak pulse, nausea or acting strangely.
According to the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, there have been nearly 500 reported hyperthermia deaths of children between 1998 and 2010 because they were left in cars. Missouri witnessed nearly 15 of those deaths.