Accidental can turn deadly when summer heat is involved
As I sat in my living room last Friday evening watching the NBC Nightly News, I was very disturbed by a story of another infant that died as a result of being left in a hot vehicle.
For those who that did not see or read the story online, 2 15-month-old twins were left in their car seats for an undetermined amount of time in Carrol County, Georgia.
The father, 24-year-old Asa North, was charged with two counts of manslaughter and reckless conduct.
Before the police arrived at the scene, North had removed the children from the car and were trying to cool them in a baby pool. Ice packs were also used in an effort to cool the children off.
According to police, the mother of the infants was in Atlanta recovering from a car accident.
For those that do not know, I have a daughter who will be 4 later this month and two other boys ages 12 and 4 that are my girlfriend’s kids, who I consider my own.
I can’t imagine ever leaving these kids in a vehicle for any extended period of time. Anytime I arrive at my destination, one of the very first things I do is get the kids out of the vehicle.
Everyone knows not to leave your kids in a hot vehicle, but let me throw some numbers at you, just so you will know what studies have shown.
According to noheatstroke.org, the total number of children who died as a result of vehicular heatstroke as of Aug. 5 is 26. This number already surpasses the 2015 total of 24. The total since 1998 is 687, and the average of heatstroke fatalities is 37.
The highest number on record came in 2010 when 49 deaths were reported with 2005 reporting the second highest number at 47. In 2013, 44 deaths were reported.
To make these numbers even more staggering, from 1998 to 2015, 661 vehicular heatstroke deaths have occurred.
Included in this figure are 356 (54 percent) children who were “forgotten” by the caregiver.
Another 189 (29 percent) included cases where the child was left playing in an unattended vehicle, and 111 (17 percent) were as a result of a child being intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult.
Also, according to noheatstroke.org, 485 (74 percent) children under the age of 2 have died as a result of vehicular heatstroke. Another 84 children (13 percent) were 3-years old.
The website reports that in a by study San Jose State University, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes, 34 degrees in 30 minutes and 43 degrees in an hour.
Texas leads the nation with 100 vehicular heatstroke deaths. As of Aug. 5, Texas had already recorded five deaths so far in 2016.
Many parents, myself included, may ask how can someone leave a child in a car unattended.
According to a report by KHOU reporter Matt Keyser, Dr. David Diamond, a neuroscientist and professor at the University of South Florida, has studied the inner workings of the mind since 2004-specifically how our brains allow us to commit such a horrific act as forgetting a child in a hot car.
Diamond says it’s a matter of our habit memories, the routines we run every day, overruling our prospective memories, the added steps we’re not accustomed to. Forgetting that extra step is as easy as walking to your car thinking about your day, or answering a phone call during the drive that shifts your mind’s gears, allowing the habit memory system to take over. During the transition, Diamond says our minds can create a false memory of completing the task.
Twenty states in the United States, including Texas, have Unattended Child Laws that address the specifics of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
Texas has a Good Samaritan Law that protects citizens in the event that they provide emergency medical assistance. This law is meant to shield people acting in good faith and in their best efforts from civil liability and to protect the public by creating an incentive for others to help in a time of emergency.
A 2005 Associated Press study found wide disparity exists in sentences for leaving children in hot cars.The study examined both the frequency of prosecutions and length of sentences of prosecutions and length of sentences in hypothermia death.
The study found that charges were filed in 49 percent of all the deaths and 81 percent of those resulted in convictions. In cases with paid caregivers (childcare workers or babysitters) 84 percent were charged and 96 percent convicted. Only seven percent of the cases involved drugs or alcohol.
According to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2015, 45 people died as a result of extreme heat, up dramatically from the 2014 total of 20, but down from the 92 fatalities in 2013. This number is well below the 10-year average for heat related fatalities, 113.
Nevada led the nation with 25 heat-related deaths. Texas followed with five deaths.
Among the 45 people who died in 2015, 60 percent of those were adults ages 60 to 89 with 71 percent being males and 28.89 females.
Just a few weeks ago Breckenridge was saddened by the news of an elderly lady who was known to many as “the Hat Lady.” It was reported, that the elderly female was in a RV for three days with no air conditioning before she passed away as a result of heat exhaustion.
There has not been any child heat related deaths in Breckenridge in recent years, but what would happen if there was one today?
Would it take something like this happening in Breckenridge for parents to begin to really understand the importance of the issue?
This is something that no one wishes upon someone else and I do not wish it on anyone. However, the numbers do not lie, and due to Texas being the leading state with child deaths in vehicles, are we as parents doing what we can to make sure it does not happen to our child?
I challenge you Breckenridge to step up and take the proper actions to ensure the safety of your children and not be distracted when it comes to your children.
Also, if you see someone that has a child sitting in the vehicle on a hot day, be sure notify the proper authorities.