The death earlier this month of a six-month old Hillsboro girl whose father forgot that she was in the back of his car when he went inside his office for work is a sad reminder of a problem that is far more extensive than most people think. As The Oregonian put it last weekend, “though the tragedy that played out in Hillsboro… is incomprehensible to many, research shows it’s a scenario that has played out hundreds of times nationwide since the late 1990s as parents and caregivers grapple with a growing litany of distractions.”
This Oregon child death is also a reminder, as SafeKids tells parents every year (see link below) around this time, that even as the weather turns cooler a closed car can still become very, very hot as it sits in the sun for hour after hour.
“In the United States, at least 635 children have died of hyperthermia in vehicles since 1998. In 51 percent of those cases, the parent of caregiver said they had forgotten the child was inside,” the paper reports, citing data from an expert on the subject at San Jose State University in California.
Deaths like these are especially tragic because they are so easily preventable. For busy adults something as simple as leaving one’s purse or briefcase in the back seat rather than on the passenger seat behind the driver can provide the nudge necessary to remember a sleeping child in the back seat. As a Portland attorney specializing in injuries to children tips like this, and the many others offered on the SafeKids website are one of the most important reasons why I support the organization.
All of us lead hectic lives these days, but we can never allow that to become an excuse for forgetting our most important responsibilities as parents and as citizens.
SafeKids.org: Information page on young children and heatstroke