11th child dies of heatstroke after being forgotten in car

ST. GEORGE — The death of an 8-month-old baby Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, marks the 11th child to die in a hot car this year – representing a 275 percent increase compared to last year at this same time.

The 8-month-old daughter of a Louisiana school teacher was the second baby to die in a hot car this week. In central New York, the 4-month-old son of a police officer died Monday after being left inside a vehicle while in the care of his 10-year police veteran father.

Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge

A child tragically dies due to heatstroke in a vehicle an average of every nine days, according to KidsAndCars.org. Since 1990, more than 750 children have died in these preventable tragedies with 11 of those reported deaths occurring in Utah.

Hyperthermia or heatstroke can happen faster than one might imagine. In just 10 minutes, a car’s temperature can increase by 19 degrees – and will continue to rise. Children or animals left inside a vehicle quickly overheat, resulting in devastating injury, permanent brain damage or death.

Even in 70 degree weather, a vehicle can reach a life-threatening temperature in just minutes. Children overheat three to five times faster than adults. Cracking the windows or using a window shield shade has little to no effect on maintaining a temperature inside the car that is safe for small children.

“The worst thing any parent or caregiver can do is think that this could never happen to them or that they are not capable of unknowingly leaving their child behind,” Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, said, adding: “This can and does happen to the most loving, responsible and attentive parents; no one is immune.”

Stock image, St. George News
Stock image, St. George News

There are a number of factors which contribute to kids being inadvertently forgotten in vehicles. Some of the most common include: changes in normal routine, lack of sleep, stress, distractions and demands of a busy life and hormone changes. Also, young children, especially babies, often fall asleep in their car seats and become very quiet.

Wednesday’s death occurred on the very day advocates were working to raise awareness for National Child Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention and Awareness Day – a day when grieving families sent letters to the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking for immediate action on the pervasive problem.

The families are insisting on technology to help prevent parents and caregivers from unknowingly leaving children alone in vehicles.

“This cycle continues year after year as the auto industry refuses to add simple, existing driver-reminder technology to their vehicles, and Federal officials are not giving serious attention to Congressional directives to test available technologies,” according to a media statement issued by KidsAndCars.org Wednesday.

Former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook is also calling on officials to quickly initiate a rulemaking to require a safety standard to include technology that alerts the driver of a vehicle if a child is inadvertently left behind.

Other lifesaving technologies to save children are now standard equipment on all vehicles, Claybrook said in a statement.

“Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), trunk releases, rear view cameras in 2018, and safer power window switches are great examples where a deadly problem existed and a cost-effective solution was required by the government to make vehicles safer for children,” she said, “and these advancements have saved countless lives.”

Meanwhile, parents and caregivers are encouraged to follow these simple steps to help ensure a safe trip:

  • Never leave children unattended in a car
  • If you spot a child alone in a car, don’t hesitate, call 911
  • Put something needed on that trip in the backseat – like a purse, briefcase or phone – or place a stuffed animal in the front seat as a reminder the child is there
  • Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices
    • If a child is missing, check the car first, including the trunk
    • Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area
  • Use drive-thru services whenever possible
  • Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up for school
  • Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping babies
  • Make “look before you leave” a routine whenever you get out of the car

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • Chris June 9, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Technology? BS! The auto industry is not responsible for adding costs on to their vehicles just because people are stupid! These are ignorant self-absorbed parents who, apparently (sorry for the pun), don’t care-people who should not have kids NOR pets. Unfortunately our judicial system will offer the lame excuse that they “suffered enough” and will let them go with a slap on the wrist.

  • ladybugavenger June 9, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Someone please help me understand how one “forgets” a child in the car. In the past, I’ve done a lot of bad things and I have been under the influence of some bad things, but I never ever forgot about my kids. So tell me, how does this happen?

    • Bob June 10, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      why don’t you give it a rest. you’re really not one to give any kind of parenting advice. plus, you’re an alcoholic

      • .... June 10, 2016 at 8:22 pm

        and you’re an idiot !

      • ladybugavenger June 12, 2016 at 3:52 pm

        Just trying to understand Bob. Why don’t help me be a better parent and give me understanding of how someone forgets a child in a hot car and the child suffers a painful death. They seem to be good parents Bob? maybe I should strive to be that good? Is that your advice to me?

      • ladybugavenger June 12, 2016 at 3:54 pm

        And Bob, I don’t qualify to be an alcoholic. I don’t drink enough for that label. I certainly do not drive after one sip of alcohol. Let’s go have a drink Bob and loosen up- we will call a cab

        • ladybugavenger June 12, 2016 at 4:02 pm

          The alcoholics won’t let me join their club! ? Discrimination haha

  • ladybugavenger June 9, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    You should never ever lwVe your kid sub the car, hot, cold, or perfect weather, you should never leave your kids in a car- ever. I did it once for less than a minute 20 years ago to go Inside a gas station, in perfect weather, less than 80 degrees, in Richfield Ut, windows rolled down and I felt like crap and a complete loser when I came back to the car. – never did it again! Don’t do it! Bur my gosh, it wasn’t hot at all, but shoot I still don’t understand how this happens.

  • KarenS June 10, 2016 at 6:51 am

    For anyone who thinks that the child who dies “just went to sleep” and died quietly, that is false. It is a horrific death and extremely traumatic and painful. Children have been found will all their hair pulled out as they struggled, trapped in a car seat with no one to help them. I don’t know anyone who has lost a child this way but have read numerous stories over the years, mostly because I couldn’t believe parents could “forget” about their children. Thank you, St. George News for the excellent reminders about this tragic, yet all too common, problem.

  • Common Sense June 10, 2016 at 7:30 am

    You could be the most perfect parent in the world and this could still happen. With all the distractions these days and routines people get into with their children. If that routines changes….It opens up that possibility. At first I couldn’t understand how you could but you need to see it from other perspectives. I think the guilt of losing a child this way would be detrimental to that parent. How exactly are we supposed to punish a parent who is already punishing themselves most likely for the rest of their lives?

    • ladybugavenger June 10, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      That’s what I’m trying to do: I’m trying to understand. I think I lack understanding because I’ve never been one to follow a routine. I’ve never had a set schedule. I don’t like repetition, I find it boring. So I lack understanding, but I’m trying and I believe it has to be deeper than just “out of a normal routine”

    • ladybugavenger June 10, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      In St George, you don’t punish them, you give them a #fundraiser unless alcohol or drugs are involved then you give them life in prison. I don’t think alcohol or drugs are a factor either. It happens to sober people. But when you have an excuse of alcohol or drugs it makes it easier to punish the parent, doesn’t it?

  • .... June 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    You Know I give ladybug a ( make believe ) hard time on some of her comments. but it’s all in fun and I hate to see her leave. …she’s quite a gal ! but all kidding aside ..yeah what ladybug said. !

  • ladybugavenger June 12, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    In Baton Rouge they arrest people for negligent homicide if they forget babies in hot cars. If only he would have lived in hurricane he would have gotten a #fundraiser and no charges.

    Bob, you charge them and then you let a jury decide, that’s what you do. That’s the way to do it. That’s the way the system is suppose to work.

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