There seems to have been a recent spate of horrible tragedies on the news about children dying after being left unattended in hot cars. Years ago, these events did not get as much attention. But according to one source, there have been over 700 heatstroke deaths of children left in cars in the past 20 years. Just in the first few months of this year, there have been 9 fatalities in the U.S. Some may say that this does not seem to be so bad, but what is so horrific is that all of these deaths are 100% preventable. Although many may think that this is a form of abuse, it may shock many to learn that a lot of the cases involve parents who had no history of abusive behavior, leading some to believe that the event was a total accident.
Most states, including Florida, have laws that state that it is illegal to leave a child in a vehicle unattended. Specifically, Florida law states that if the child is under six and is left in the car for more than fifteen minutes, then the car operator can be held liable, even if the car is ventilated. If the child’s life or health is in danger or if the car is running, then it is illegal to leave the child alone in a car for ANY amount of time.
The reason for this health problem is two-fold. First, a vehicle will heat up incredibly quickly, even if the windows are cracked. In just a few minutes, a vehicle can read 125 degrees. In fact, cracking the windows does nothing to slow the heating process down! Secondly, a child’s body is more likely to overheat quickly than an adult’s. When you put these two factors together, it makes a situation for tragedy to ensue.
But what causes these type of cases? Certainly, some of them are cases of abuse where the parent intentionally is leaving the child alone as a means of hurting or killing the child. But other cases involve parents who think that they are running in to the store “for just a few minutes” and that the child will be fine while they are gone. Finally, there are some parents who simply forget that the child is in the car, particularly with rear-facing child seats in the back of the car. It is imperative that you always do a check of your car before you leave the vehicle in the parking lot. Make sure that no children (or pets) are left in the car. Be sure that you are aware at all times so that you do not wind up as a tragic statistic.
These accidents are sad cases of negligence that could be prevented with a little extra care. Always do a safety check of your vehicle before locking it up to make sure everyone is out ( pets included!). Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle at any age; even older children can die from heat stroke when left in a hot car and unable to open a door or window.
Article updated: 6/19/2017