Parenting: No excuse for kids dying in hot cars

News-DemocratJuly 8, 2013 

Every summer someone inevitably leaves his child in the car while he "just runs inside for a minute."

And inevitably, a child dies horribly in a sweltering hot car when a minute becomes five minutes or 10 minutes or half an hour.

One child has already died in a hot car in the metro-east and a parent is charged with the death. It makes me so angry and heartbroken and sick to even begin to imagine what that poor child suffered before dying. What a terrible, completely preventable death.

I hope it's the only death this year because there is no excuse for leaving a child, or a pet for that matter, in a hot car on a summer day, even with the windows cracked.

No excuse.

Within minutes, the inside of a hot car can reach deadly temperatures even on a fairly mild 80-degree day

On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 99 degrees in 10 minutes. In 20 minutes the interior temperature of a vehicle on an 80-degree day reaches 109 degrees. It soars to 114 degrees in half an hour.

In just 10 minutes anyone inside that car is miserable and sweating.

Organs shut down and cells are damaged when the body temperature reaches 107 degrees. Heatstroke occurs when a body temperatures goes over 104 degrees.

So far this year, 16 children nationwide have died inside hot cars. Last year, 32 died. Since 1998, 559.

Unacceptable.

Sure, with young kids in a car seat, it is easier and quicker to just leave the kid in the car while you run into the gas station to pay the cashier or grab a soda. It's a pain the neck to unbuckle all those buckles on a car seat and pull the child out of the car seat and lug the kid into the store and try to balance kid and beverages and purse or wallet, possibly all done while trying to soothe a grumpy child who didn't want to get out of the car in the first place or was happily on the way to la-la land when interrupted.

But, all of that, even a whiny, crying child, sure beats the heck out of planning a funeral and living the rest of your life knowing you alone could have prevented that horrific death.

A couple of years ago, a toddler died in a hot car in St. Louis when the morning routine changed for a couple. The parent with the child forgot the child was in the car and parked and went on to work.

I tried to understand how something like that could happen, I really did. I tried to put myself in the same position because I have been in the place where the routine changed and I'm distracted or busy or in a hurry.

But I never forgot about my child. Ever. It's just one of those things that doesn't slip your mind even when your mind is frazzled and going in a million different directions at once. Child first, always.

According to a study done by Jan Nulle about heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles, 52 percent, or 288 kids, died in a hot car because the parent or caregiver forgot the child was in the car. Twenty-nine percent (163) died while playing in an unattended vehicle and 18 percent (100) were intentionally left in the vehicle.

More than half the kids that died were under the age of 2, an age when they are completely dependent on their parents to put them in and take them out of the vehicle. Completely dependent on a parent to protect them and prevent their deaths.

Take your kids out of the cars, please. Just take the time to do it and take a moment to check the back seat if you are one of those super busy, forgetful parents. Make it the first thing you do every time you turn off the engine.

No more preventable deaths this summer.

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