Leaving Kids Alone in the Car

Monday, July 12, 2010

One summer day after my lunch break, I returned from work to find 3 small children in a car. They were obviously scared and overheated. One was vomiting and crying. I was working at a service organization and assumed their folks were inside the building. I knew I had to get them out of that car, as soon as possible and I did. And their folks were inside. Good ending, I think. I have no idea if the kids were permanently damaged, emotionally or physically. Point is: I didn’t know how to handle the situation, and I could’ve been putting myself at risk for “abduction charges, “or had I called 911, the guardians could’ve been in a lot of trouble too! It might have taken the 911 responder’s precious time to come and get the children out, when I could’ve done it sooner. All points that raced through my head, as my body, grabbed the kids out of the hot car.

Biggest Point: It is dangerous to leave kids alone in a vehicle unattended. And, law enforcement is cracking down on this issue, more and more.

Every year, 30+ children die, unnecessarily, due to being left alone in a vehicle. (*This stat refers to deaths from overheating. It does not include the much higher statistic of deaths from other accidents associated with cars and kids.) No telling how many thousands more are emotionally harmed. Being left is scary. Being in a hot vehicle is scary and dangerous. A child’s body heats up 3 to 5 times quicker than an adult’s body. The thermostat in a car, can heat up 40 degrees higher than outside temperatures, on average.

Older Kids And Other Risks
There are recorded deaths of children even 13 years old, who were overcome by heat in a car. Older kids love playing with the gearshifts and electric buttons of windows/sunroofs too, which multiplies the dangers to themselves and others in the car. All children would be vulnerable to other hazards of being left alone, abductions, carjacking, entangled in seatbelts, strangulations from windows, burns from hot buckles, and even intended or unintended harm by other siblings.

Here are some quick tips, but feel free to go to these sites for more facts:
*Call 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. If the child looks ill or is pale, try to get them out asap, then call 911.
*Make it a habit to always check the back seat for children, when you exit. Make “triggers” to help remember you have a small child in your car. Leave your purse/wallet/work briefcase in the backseat by them. Or, set your cell phone and/or computer at work to remind you if you stopped at daycare that day.
*Teach children, and remind them as they age, NOT to play with the car or trunk.
*Lock all vehicle doors and trunk – especially at home. Keep keys away from children.
*Check cars and trunks if children go missing.

(***Remember many of these tips apply to pets as well!)

Sites: www.safekids.org/safety-basics


Contributed by Carol Pool, PCAIN Education Specialist

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