The sad news last week that a three-year-old boy in Idaho was found dead in his family car is a timely and tragic reminder of something I highlight nearly every summer: the danger that sealed cars pose for small children.
According to the Associated Press the boy “apparently wandered outside and climbed into a hot car with two family dogs.” Both the boy and the pets died. The case is especially noteworthy because the news agency says local authorities investigating the case “believe the child headed out with the dogs and all three of them climbed into the car. The boy was not locked in the vehicle.” This is important because it reminds us that unlocked cars to which a child has access can be just as dangerous as cars in which a child has been locked by accident.
According to SafeKids, an organization I have long supported and promoted, child deaths in hot vehicles are a serious problem. “Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children,” the organization notes on its website (see link below). “On average, every 8 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle.”
As a Portland lawyer specializing in injuries to children I want to take this opportunity to remind parents throughout the Pacific Northwest of SafeKids’ simple rules for preventing hot car deaths. First, never leave a child alone in a car – even for a few minutes. The interior can get a lot hotter, a lot faster, than most people think. Second, create reminders that force you to check the back seat before leaving the vehicle – such as placing a briefcase, backpack or purse there rather than on the empty passenger seat. This forces the driver who may be in a hurry to park the car and get out to turn around and notice a child who may otherwise be sleeping quietly in the back. Finally: take action. As SafeKids notes, “If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations.”
Hot car deaths are among the most easily-prevented tragedies imaginable. As we head into summer, let us hope that a little attentiveness can do a lot when it comes to keeping our children safe.
AP via The Oregonian: Idaho boy, 3, climbs in hot vehicle, found dead