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Dangers of Leaving Children Unattended in Cars

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On: Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 10:31AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Dangers of Leaving Children Unattended in Cars

It’s that time of year again when the tragic statistics start to appear nationwide regarding unfortunate children who die of heat stroke from either being left in cars or accidently getting trapped in automobiles in the heat. Every year the numbers seem to be very predictable, but this year some research indicates that that number is on the rise.

Eight kids across the nation in the toddler/infant age group have reportedly died since June 13th this year, the largest number in over 10 years.

Susan West, a registered nurse in Oklahoma who was interviewed by News Ok.com, reports that children have many special physical challenges when their bodies cope with rising temperatures.  Kids have less overall body fluid so they dehydrate much more rapidly than adults. Overall children’s bodies heat up five times faster than a person who is full gown, and on top of that, an infant does not develop mature sweat glands to help cool the body until around 6 months of age. "They're just defenseless, they can't help themselves," said Susan West, Safe Kids Tulsa. "They're just victims." West also said;"They're heating up faster, they're dehydrating faster,"


According to AAA, the mean temperature inside of a car’s cabin is usually 30 degrees higher than outside of the automobile. GM News.com reports; “the temperature can rise 19 degrees in just 10 minutes and 45 to 50 degrees in one to two hours inside the vehicle. Heat stroke can occur when the body temperature reaches 104 F and core body temperature of 107 degrees F is considered lethal as cells are damaged and internal organs shut down.”

Many experts, including West say that the only real prevention is to avoid leaving a child in a car altogether.

While it may be difficult for some to imagine how a person could simply forget their child was in the car, it is actually a common cause of heat stroke in children, particularly infants who are in the backseat who may be sleeping in their safety seat. Experts suggest leaving a briefcase or purse in the backseat right in front of the infant/child seat to be sure that the backdoor will get opened before the driver exits the vehicle.

According to a statement in an article from GM News.com, Jan Null, certified Meterologist, states that since 1998, 462 children have died from heat stroke as a direct result of being left in a hot car-that is an average of 37 kids per year. Null stated; “There just isn’t that much change in this from year to year, that’s probably because when these incidents happen, they are infrequent in a given community.”

Many safety and prevention programs have sprung up across the nation to address the problem and 2 of the Detroit 3 automakers, Cheverolet and General Motors are involved in a program called “Safe Kids USA” that was started in order to educate the public regarding the “Never Leave Your Child Alone” program.

According to a spokesperson for the Safe Kids program; “Our goal is to raise awareness of just how dangerous it is to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, as well as to remind parents and caregivers of important safety precautions they can take to avoid this preventable tragedy.” The organization compiled a list of preventative actions that they recommend including many ways that a parent or caretaker can remind themselves that the child has not been dropped off yet.

General Motors has considered the design of a technical safety device that would trigger an alarm if the child was still in the car when the driver gets out and prepares to leave the automobile, but according to GM’s director of safety, Jeff Boyer; “We have looked at a range of technologies to provide a warning to drivers that a sleeping infant or young child might be in the back seat, but we are convinced more than ever that this issue is best addressed by education and awareness,”

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