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Question of the Week

June 2, 2003

Hello!

"WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 1, 2000)  At least 30 children died last summer, one child every four days on average, after being trapped in an automobile parked in the searing heat....In Atlanta, two young brothers, both under age three, died in July after wandering out of their backyard and into an unlocked car parked outside the family home. Temperatures that afternoon had reached about 90 degrees."
http://www.safekids.org/tier3_cd.cfm?folder_id=300&content_item_id=491

It can be the result of a tragic accident...

"At just 3 years old, Steven Wittenmyer Jr. was able to open the door to his family's 1994 Pontiac Grand Am all by himself--a skill that is believed to have cost the toddler his life Saturday. While his father lay napping, investigators said, Steven and his 2-year-old sister, Alexis, managed to climb into the sweltering car outside their Southwestside home sometime after 1:30 p.m. The vehicle became a death trap when the child-safety locks engaged."
http://www.kidsncars.com/heat.htm

"Experts say it can happen in as little as 10 minutes. Even on a mild day at 73 degrees outside, an SUV can heat up to 100 degrees in 10 minutes, to 120 in just 30 minutes. As the outdoor temperature rises, so does the heat buildup in a vehicle. At 90 degrees outside, the interior of a vehicle can heat up to 160 degrees within several minutes."
http://www.ots.ca.gov/pressroom/2001/pr083101.asp

"PLANO A 3-year-old Plano boy died Wednesday afternoon after getting into his family's parked sport utility vehicle as the temperature outside neared 100 degrees, police said. Cory Clark was playing...when he managed to get into the Chevrolet Suburban, said Officer Carl Duke, spokesman for the Plano Police Department. Police said it was not clear how the boy got into the vehicle. Police estimate Cory was trapped for 20 minutes. Family members began searching for the boy and found him in the vehicle, police said."
http://www.kidsncars.com/heat.htm

Unaware of the consequences, drivers make it possible for children to get themselves into unsafe situations...

"The SAFE KIDS survey also found that only 50 percent of parents always lock their cars at home and one out of five parents rarely or never does so. More than a third of the deaths reported last year occurred when children crawled into unlocked cars while playing and perished in the sweltering heat. Unlocked cars pose serious risks to children who are naturally curious and often lack fear. Once they crawl in, they don‚t have the developmental capability to get out. In several cases, a parent or caregiver intentionally left the child in a car while in other cases, the child was mistakenly forgotten."
http://www.safekids.org/tier3_cd.cfm?folder_id=300&content_item_id=491

Cracking the window isn't enough. Unaware of the consequences, parents, grandparents, and others responsible for the safety of children, place these children in unsafe situations...

"She said she was just stupid....So Tarajee Maynor -- who had been charged with felony murder after her two children died in her sweltering car while she visited a Southfield beauty salon -- now faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison instead of life without parole....'I didn't know ... that they would die,' Maynor wrote in a statement to Southfield Police Detective Chris Helgert. 'I didn't want them to die.'...According to testimony, she locked her kids inside, left the driver's window open about 1 1/2 inches and headed for the salon. Outside, it was 86 degrees; inside the car, it became much hotter."
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/kids11_20020711.htm

Not all those responsible for leaving children unattended in cars face criminal charges, but those responsible for leaving children who later die or suffer injuries do have to deal with the consequences of the tragedy.

"AT RISK IN CARS
There's never a good reason to leave kids alone in a car. Some reasons why: Heat: Temperatures inside a car can rocket to more than 120 degrees in minutes, even on relatively cool days. Theft: If a car is left running with the air conditioner on, a thief with a brick can drive off with it -- possibly with the kids still inside. Abduction: It wouldn't take long for a kidnapper to talk an abandoned child out of a car. Accidents: Curious kids can get cars out of park and into neutral, drive or reverse with disastrous results."
http://www.freep.com/news/locoak/kids11_20020711.htm

Parents and other drivers should be careful not to leave a car accessible to be used as a toy; older sibling and parents need to help younger siblings and children to understand that cars are not places to hide or places to play; younger children need to be kept out (and let out) of parked cars, even when the weather doesn't seem to be a threat.

Question of the Week:
What can you do to keep yourself, your siblings, and your friends safe around cars? What additional responsibilities do drivers and caregivers have? What precautions can those responsible for small children take to help prevent a tragedy?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Cindy
aehealth@yahoo.com
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum
http://www.accessexcellence.org

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