The Dangers of Leaving Children Alone In or Around Cars
As we get further into summer in Texas, children will be spending more time outdoors and the danger of children being left alone in and around cars increases. When we think of children left alone in cars, our first thought is the danger of children dying in hot cars due to heatstroke. Tragic stories about deaths of children left in unattended cars have been in the news lately.
In addition to heat risks, there are other safety concerns with unsupervised children around cars, including back-overs, the risk of children releasing the gear shift or engaging electric windows, and even becoming trapped inside vehicles or trunks. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, approximately 39 percent of back-over deaths occurred at home in the driveway, an apartment parking lot, or in a townhome complex. Drivers in back-over and front-over deaths are often family members or family friends of the child.
Children are more at risk for heatstroke because a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s. Heatstroke can occur at body temperatures above 104 degrees. Even mild outside temperatures can pose a threat, but with Texas temperatures climbing into the upper 90s each day, the danger becomes even greater. The problem is that temperatures in parked vehicles rise very quickly – as much as 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, according to San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences.
It is important that parents and caregivers are on alert to avoid a heatstroke death. Any change in schedule for drop-off or pickup of a child can lead to a deadly mistake. In more than half of the cases of heatstroke, the death was due to the child being “forgotten” by the caregiver. Such deaths are preventable when parents take precautions to make sure that children are not left alone in vehicles and cannot gain access to unlocked vehicles. Although many parents may think that this will never happen to them, it is a tragedy that can and has happened to many families.
Follow these safety tips to be sure that children cannot be harmed in a vehicle:
- Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away.
- Carefully check all seats in the van or bus to make sure there are no children sleeping on the seats or hiding under seats.
- Do not let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
- Check with the family when a child does not show up for day care to be sure a parent has not forgotten a child in their vehicle.
- Always lock vehicle doors and trunks, and keep keys out of children’s reach.
- If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk or storage area.
- If a child is in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Children around Parked Vehicles:
- Walk all the way around your parked vehicle to check for children, pets, or toys before getting in the car and starting the engine.
- Make sure young children are always accompanied by an adult when getting in and out of a car.
- Identify and use safe play areas for children away from parked or moving vehicles.
- Designate a safe spot for children to go when nearby vehicles are about to move.
- Firmly hold the hand of each child when walking near moving vehicles and when in driveways, parking lots or sidewalks.
- Teach children not to play in and around vehicles.
- Never leave keys in the car.
- Store keys out of children’s reach.
- Lock the power windows so that children cannot play with and cannot get caught in them. Power windows can strangle a child or cut off a finger.
Following these safety tips can make all the difference in avoiding needless tragedy.
Master Wellness Volunteer Conference
2017 is the year for the next Master Wellness Volunteer training. Currently, Hopkins County has 10 trained volunteers, and they are doing a fantastic job! If you have an interest in participating in the next training, I want to talk to you! You don’t have to have a wellness background, but you do need to have a desire to learn and help others!
I will be taking my car to a regional Master Wellness Volunteer Conference in Dallas on July 21, and anyone interested in learning more about the program is invited to attend! The fee for the conference is only $15, which covers lunch and some fantastic speakers. Some of the current volunteers will be riding with me, and more are welcome to attend! The link to register for the conference is https://agriliferegister.tamu./edu/MWV. If you need to register on our office computer, you are welcome to drop by during regular office hours (note: we will be closed on July 4).
We can learn a lot from pencils: to be the best, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you.