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Dangers of Leaving Children
Unattended in a Car

Until relatively recently, it was customary to let the child ride in the front. While this proved to pose a greater safety risk in case of a collision, it also made the child’s presence difficult to overlook when leaving the car.

In the 1990s, with airbags coming into widespread usage, the risk to children riding in the front seat became clear, and soon it became a legal requirement for children to be in the back seat, either in a safety seat or a booster with a harness, or, if old enough, in the regular seat wearing a seat belt. This decreased the number of fatalities and injuries in collisions, but dramatically increased the number of children suffering heatstroke because their parent or guardian left them in the car.

Between 30 and 50 children die every year in the US after suffering heatstroke in a hot car. Sometimes, in about 20% of the cases, a parent leaves the child in the car purposefully, thinking the errand would not take long and usually in the belief that this would be safer and reduce the stress for both the child and the parent. Other times unsupervised children manage to get into the car and are then unable to get out. But over 50% of car heatstroke incidents in children happen when children are left in the car unintentionally, and around half of these deaths involve infants younger than 2 years.

You cannot overestimate the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a car. In relation to heat, on a 70°F day, the temperature inside the car rises to 89°F in 10 minutes, 99°F in 20 minutes, 104°F in 30 minutes, 113°F in one hour. Keep in mind also that children’s bodies are less capable of dealing with heat than adults’, and that rolling the windows down a bit doesn’t make a difference.

The emotional toll these incidents take is immense, and there can be serious legal consequences as well. The caretaker is persecuted in around 50% of hot-car deaths, and these cases result in a conviction 80% of the time.

Given the enormous stakes involved, if you are driving children, especially young children who may stay quiet for longer periods of time, you need to think of ways to childproof both your car and your driving practices, to prevent such tragedies.

Here are some tips that will help you prevent from leaving a child in the car:

  • The risk of leaving your child in the car unintentionally increases when your routine changes. Make sure you are aware of any such changes and of the associated risks.
  • Put something you’ll need at your next stop next to the child’s seat, so as to make sure you turn around and get it ? and get your child - before leaving the car.
  • Put something of the child’s on the front seat, also to remind you of the child’s presence.
  • Make sure you can see the child when driving, either by positioning the child’s seat in the middle or by using dedicated mirrors that allow you to check up on your child while driving with minimum distraction.
  • Have an understanding with the babysitter, teacher, grandparent or other childcare provider that they call you if the child doesn’t arrive into their care as usual.
  • Be aware of the risks involved in leaving your child in the car, and make sure all the other caregivers are as informed.
  • Make it a habit to check the car before you leave it.
  • Finally, if you see a child alone in a car, call 911.

A childs life is precious and at all cost, SimpleToFinishTrafficSchool, wants to help ensure your childs safety.   If you have children, please remember these steps detailed above.  Happy safe driving for all of us.  

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