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EDITORIAL: Don’t leave children in hot vehicles

on Tuesday, 16 July 2019. Posted in Editorials, Opinions

EDITORIAL: Don’t leave children in hot vehicles

Over the past three weeks, three people have been arrested and charged with leaving their child or children in an unattended vehicle while they went shopping. Fortunately, none of these incidents resulted in a tragedy.

We hope that people will come to the realization that you simply do not leave young children in an unattended vehicle at any time, but particularly during summer when temperatures can be extremely dangerous. We pray that it does not take a death for common sense to prevail.

According to kidsandcars.org, the web site for the national advocacy group Kids and Cars, 19 children in the U.S. have died this year as a result of being left unattended in a hot vehicle. One of those deaths occurred in Blythewood, just outside of Columbia.

In 2018, 52 children lost their lives to this senselessness. Five of those took place in South Carolina. One, sadly, was right here in Florence. Seven-month-old Dean Emerson Coward died after being left in an unattended vehicle. His father was charged with his death.

These numbers, be they on a national, state or local level, are simply unacceptable. The senseless death of just one child is too many.

Kids and Cars is calling on Congress to pass the Hot Cars Act of 2019, which would require a system in all passenger vehicles that could sense the presence of a child or animal inside and warn the driver, much the way our cars warn us when our safety belts aren’t buckled or we’ve left our lights on or left the keys in the ignition. Some newer vehicles already come equipped with such a system.

It sounds reasonable, but between the objection of automakers, the dysfunction of Congress and the lag time on any new auto regulations, it’s not something that will happen soon, if ever. That means we all have a role to play in reducing these tragedies.

Kids and Cars says the “most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make is to think leaving a child alone in a vehicle could never happen to them or their family.”

Recent surveys by WebMD reveal that at least 25 percent of parents have intentionally left a young child alone in a parked vehicle.

There is never – NEVER - a good time to leave a young child in a car without an adult. Not even for a moment while buying a stamp or grabbing a gallon of milk from the store. Cars can heat up to deadly temperatures very quickly, even in the shade and on days the temperatures seem unseasonably cool.

What you think will take a minute could take five, or 10, and depending on the temperature outside, that could be too long. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in minutes.

In the same WebMD surveys, 11 percent of respondents admitted to having forgotten a child strapped in a car at least briefly. It’s hard to imagine someone forgetting precious cargo in the backseat, but it does occur.

Kids and Cars offers several sensible suggestions for anyone who transports children:

Make it part of your routine to open the back door before you leave your vehicle;

Put your phone or purse or work ID or something else in the back seat as a forced reminder.

Ask your child-care provider to call you immediately if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled. 

Child-care providers should use a check-list to account for all children.

Forgetting a child is in the backseat is one thing. Deliberately leaving them there is another matter entirely.

If you are tempted to make that “quick” trip into the store, stop and think. Do not do it, please.

If you’re in a rush, pause for a moment and remember there nothing so pressing that it should prevent you from thinking about the precious cargo riding in the back.

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