June 2, 2003
"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."
It can be the result of a
"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."
"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."
"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."
Unaware of the consequences,
drivers make it possible for children to get themselves into unsafe
"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 dont 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."
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
"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."
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."
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.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum