Kids are back in school and everyone is beginning to get into a new
routine for the fall and winter months. Yet, at the same time, young
children are being inadvertently forgotten in vehicles and left to
perish due to hyperthermia.
KidsAndCars.org has documented at least 34 fatal heat deaths so far this year (already more than the 30 deaths that occurred in 2006) with the most recent tragedy taking place last Saturday, September 29 in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
Parents: it is NEVER okay to leave children alone in vehicles; heat is just another reason for not doing it. This past summer has been wrought with many high-profile tragedies. In most of these cases the parents involved have been well-educated, loving, and caring people. It is way past time that we all partner together to put an end to these predictable and preventable tragedies. A combination of technology, regulation, legislation, and education can absolutely put an end to these deaths. From 1990-1992, there were only 11 known heatstroke deaths. This is before front airbags became standard equipment in so many cars.
In 1995-1996 the problem with children being killed by passenger side airbags peaked because children were being placed in the front passenger seat. The automakers, NHTSA, parents and safety groups worked together to make sure that children now ride safely in the back seat. In this situation, a combination of technology, regulation, legislation and education almost totally eradicated these deaths, so we know it can be done.
Now that most young children are riding in the backseat, the incidents
of children being forgotten in the backseat (out of sight/out of mind)
have increased ten-fold, as demonstrated by 110 fatal heat strokes
deaths from 2004-2006. More children have died after being left alone
in a hot vehicle than have been killed by passenger-seat airbags.
There is an excellent graphic chart
at www.KidsAndCars.org that shows how the elimination of one problem
appears to have had the unintended consequence of causing another. The
chart is entitled, "Children fatally injured by passenger side airbags
verses heat-related deaths." Please keep in mind that KidsAndCars.org
IS NOT implying that children should ride in the front seat or that
airbags should be disabled. Keep children in the back seat--they are
safest there. This is merely a demonstration of how the danger was
transferred from the front seat to the back when awareness of front
airbags was emphasized. Now we need to move additional awareness into
Inside Edition has been working to bring attention to these incidents. They aired a segment on Thursday, October 4, 2007, that included footage from an incident that happened on Monday in Olathe, Kansas.
Inside Edition is a syndicated program that airs at different times all over the country. To find out when it airs in your market, go to www.InsideEdition.com, and click on "Where to Watch." Simply input your state, and the site will display the station listings and airtimes for your region. If you missed the program, Inside Edition should be adding it to their web site in the future.
Janette E. Fennell