news Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | September 7, 2014 | 06:45 pm IST

On September 4th, a man in Maryland forgot to look in the backseat of his car. It’s something a lot of people do – forget a grocery bag or their briefcase in a hurry to get home or to work. No big deal, but when what they leave behind in the backseat of a closed car on a hot sunny afternoon is a child; it can be a parent’s biggest nightmare.

John Junek forgot to drop off his 17-month-old son at daycare in Maryland. The child was left in the car on a day with outside temperatures of about 85 F for around six hours, said a CBS report. He was found dead due to increased temperatures inside the car. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study said that temperatures inside cars with windows rolled up can reach dangerous levels within ten minutes if outside temperatures were around 80F (26 degrees Celsius)

This latest child death due to vehicular heat has brought the problem of children being forgotten in hot cars back into the limelight. Deaths of infants and toddlers from vehicular heat are not something new. In the US, on an average 38 children in a year die of being trapped in closed cars due to heat-related deaths from excess heat that develops inside the car, according to statistics from kidsandcars.org, a public safety awareness website for child safety around automobiles. This is equivalent to deaths of children at the rate of one every nine days from vehicular heat. 

Most times parents or caretakers forget the baby/child placed in the backseat of the car. Last year the number of child vehicular deaths from heat stroke was 44. This year so far it stands at 26 deaths.

However, the point is that there is no one to blame. “It can happen to even the most loving, responsible caregivers,” said kidsandcars. 

Sixty per cent of the time, the parents are charged in these hot-car related deaths of children, however only ten per cent are convicted of any charges, said another kidsandcars report.

In Georgia, three days ago a man Justin Ross Harris was indicted on eight charges mainly murder for having left his 22-month-old son in a hot car, said a USAToday report. While initially he was charged with negligence, Harris had pleaded not guilty. However, prosecutors have now charged him with eight counts of murder over allegations from the prosecutor that it was premeditated. The case is still going on in court.

Over a fourteen year period (1998 to 2013) studied, it was found that 51 per cent of the 606 children died of heatstroke because they were “forgotten” by their caregivers.

According to the same study, eleven per cent of the children had been left behind intentionally by their parents. The difficulties of struggling American parents who left their children behind in cars because of lack of an alternative was highlighted when Shanesha Taylor was arrested. 

Hers was a name that has created a contentious debate when she left her three kids in a car to attend a job interview.

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She was arrested for leaving her children unattended in the car. Her case got a lot of attention and sympathy from the public, when it came to light that she, an unemployed and struggling single mother of two young children had left her kids to attend a life-changing job interview, all because the day care plan she had arranged for fell apart. 

Centres for Disease Control says on its website that “All children aged 12 and under should ride in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag.”
Due to this rule, children are kept in the backseats of cars. Kidsandcars found that between 2011-2013 when all young kids were placed in back seats of cars instead of front, the number of fatalities have increased tenfold.

The dangers of leaving kids in cars on hot days are not well-known. In a Kids and Car report, nurse Erica Janes said, "It takes only ten minutes for the inside of a car to heat up by 20 degrees and it continues to heat up quickly even if windows are cracked. People have to remember that children, their body heats ups three to five times faster than an adult body," said Janes. "Literally, their bodies are cooking inside these hot cars. They experience a heat stroke, their organs shut down, and they cannot breathe, so they suffocate and their heart stops beating"

A Child care PSA 

                                                             

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