We are not even halfway through summer and already at least seventeen young children are believed to have died of vehicular heatstroke in the United States.
Vehicles heat up quickly in warm weather, and many parents are unaware of how quickly cars can become dangerously hot. Two of the deaths occurred when the temperatures were in the 70's -- one day when it was only 73 degrees.
The nonprofit organization Kids and Cars explains, "A child’s body temperature rises 3‐5 times faster than an adult’s. Even with the windows partially down, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 125 degrees in just minutes."
The following children's deaths have been linked to vehicular hyperthermia so far this year:
- Derrick Holmom (5 years old) Port Huron, MI 07/11/14
- Benjamin Seitz (15 months old) Ridgefield, CT 07/07/14
- Hailey Marie Harper (2 years old) El Paso, TX 07/06/14
- Logan Cox (3 years old) Lancaster, SC 07/03/14
- Cooper Harris (22 months old) Cobb County, GA 06/18/14
- Anna Marie Lillie (9 months old) Rockledge, FL 06/16/14
- Mason Ryan Wood (2 months old) Ardmore, OK 06/12/14
- Bella Lindstrom (4 years old) Flint, TX 06/10/14
- Alejandra Hernandez (2 years old) Sarasota, FL 06/08/14
- Sophia Lea Marie Lyon (15 months old) Dolgeville, NY 06/04/14
- Jeremiah Kennedy (13 months old) Florence, SC 05/25/14
- Logan Jacobs (5 years old) Princeton, IL 05/25/14
- Julius Meh (2 years old) Clarkston, GA 05/12/14
- Sophia Goyeneche (13 months old) Hartsville, SC 05/08/14
- Fernando Velasquez (5 years old) Bakersfield, CA 04/29/14
- Aurora Hollingsworth (17 months) North Richland Hills, TX 04/22/14
- Giovanni Hernandez (9 months) San Jose, CA 04/16/14
Note that four deaths have occurred so far in July. Six deaths occurred in June, four deaths in May, and three deaths in April.
The children's ages ranged from a two month-old infant who was forgotten in a car by a relative to a five year-old boy with Down's Syndrome who police believe climbed into the car to play and succumbed from the heat.
Think this could never happen to you? Gene Weingarten wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning article for the Washington Post profiling some parents who forgot their children in cars. It's a long read and heart-breaking at times, but it gives important insight into how these tragedies keep happening month after month.
Weingarten pointes out:
What kind of person forgets a baby?
The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.
Kids and Cars suggests that parents remember the acronym BE SAFE:
Back seat: Put something in the back seat whenever you strap a child in, so you have to open the back door, or at least turn around to find that item, when you get out of the car. Your handbag or briefcase, cellphone or employee badge.
Every child should be correctly restrained in the back seat.
Stuffed animal: Keep a brightly colored one in the car seat when your child isn’t there. Then move it from the car seat to the front seat after you strap your child in, to remind you when your baby is in the back seat.
Ask your baby sitter or child-care provider to call you within 10 minutes if your child hasn't arrived on time.
Focus on driving: Avoid cellphone calls and text-messaging while driving.
Every time you park your vehicle -- every single time -- open the back door to make sure no one has been left behind.
They also offer a printable PDF of safety tips on keeping kids safe from hot car deaths here.
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