In Monday’s Post and Courier, your Charleston auto accident lawyers read an article that brings attention to a sad reality concerning parents, their children, and their cars. Last year, 49 children died of heatstroke after they were left in hot cars in the United States. Considering the outrageously hot temperatures we’ve been having the last couple weeks, it is important that efforts be made to prevent incidents where a child is left in car and subjected to extreme heat.
Experts report, in the last 12 years, that the parents of more than half of the 500 children who died from being left in a hot car simply forgot their kids were even in the vehicle. Founder of the nonprofit organization Kids and Cars says that, “If you have the ability to forget your cell phone, you can forget your child.” The reality of the situation is that terrible things don’t only happen to terrible parents, while good parents may think they will never forget their youngster is in the back seat, they can.
Kids and Cars is planning to print warning tags that read “Look Before You Lock.” These warning tags will go into hospital take-home kits for new mothers as reminders to not forget their child in the car. It was not specified in the Post and Courier’s article how these tags are to be implemented, but your child injury attorneys at Howell and Christmas think they are to be used in a similar manner as the handicap parking tags that hang from the rearview mirror.
Recently, Safe Kids USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating preventable child injuries, launched a campaign by the name of “Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car.” These nonprofit efforts come at an interesting time, the Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents put children in rear-facing car seats in the backseat until they’re 2-years-old or 30 pounds as a measure to keep kids safe in the event of serious auto accident. But, some think, with the child facing away from the parent, and out of view from the rearview mirror, kids will be more likely to be forgotten when the parent leaves the vehicle.
History shows that the last time experts put out a campaign to put more kids in rear-facing car seats the number of deaths because of being left in a hot car increased dramatically. In the 1990s parents were urged to put their children in rear-facing seats to prevent severe injuries from air bag deployment. In fact, according to a Kids and Cars report, more children died from being left in hot cars than from air bag deployment.
A psychology professor at the University of South Florida attributes parents’ forgetting their kids to the brain’s tendency to focus on what it is doing at the moment and likens it to putting a cup of coffee on the roof of the car while grabbing the keys. The professor says, “It is easy to forget the cup of coffee until it spills down the windshield when you drive away.” Today’s fast-paced and multitasking world, the stress and lack of sleep that comes with the modern lifestyle can add to the tendency for parents to be forgetful. Parents may be so concentrated on the stress and pressure they are under or what lies ahead at work that they may drive straight past the day-care-center or preschool.
And that is exactly what happened to one Mother back in September of 2007. She recalls the her two children had been sick and was sleep deprived from the late nights. Breaking from routine one morning, she planned on taking her youngest son to day care, while his older brother stayed at home with dad. Typically, the older child, who was also usually with her, was talkative in car, but her youngest quietly fell asleep and she drove straight to work, forgetting to drop him off first.
While going about her normal day at work she got a call from the day care saying the child never arrived. When she ran out to her car she found her 23-month-old son limp and pale. She was charged with manslaughter and felony child abuse, but the charges were dropped two years after her son’s death.
She went on to found the aforementioned Kids and Cars as a means to prevent other wrongful child deaths. She and other parents have offered some tips to help remember your kids in the backseat. Keeping things like your cell phone, purse, or other essential items on the floorboard of the backseat is a great reminder that your baby is on board. Also, a warning tag like the mentioned earlier in this post is a helpful reminder.