Through October 2, 2007, there have been 34 deaths of small children who have been left in a hot vehicle in the United States, bringing the total of such fatalities to 323 since 1998.
According to media reports, 47 percent of these children were forgotten by a caregiver, 25 percent were children playing in an unattended vehicle, and 21 percent were children left intentionally in a vehicle by an adult. Though the victims have ranged in age from 7-weeks to 13-years old, 75 percent of them were less than 3 years of age, and 32 percent of them were less than a year old. That is a staggering statistic for any parent to digest.
Only 12 states have laws prohibiting leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, and 15 more states have proposed legislation to make leaving a child alone in a car, van, truck or SUV a crime.
It can happen to anyone. When my first child was 7-weeks old, I put him in his car seat after grocery shopping, turned the car on, hit the AC (it was July in Florida), and turned to unload my groceries. My van had a safety feature that locked the car doors as soon as the ignition was turned on. So, after I finished putting my groceries into the back of my van and shut that door, there I was -- on the outside, with my baby, my purse, and my cell phone locked inside.
Needless to say I panicked, freaked out, went nuts. When I could not reach my husband on a kind woman's cell phone, I called 911. The fire department was there, lights and sirens going, in a matter of minutes. They opened up my van without damaging it and found my son, peacefully asleep in his car seat in the subzero temperatures inside my air-conditioned van. Had that car not been running or the AC not on, I would have broken the window myself without hesitation.
I can only imagine the heartbreak suffered by a parent who has left their child in a car by accident, with horrible consequences. I cannot fathom someone intentionally leaving their child in one.
Make sure your child is safe. Try the following:
1.) Be sure that all occupants have left the vehicle when unloading items. Don't overlook sleeping babies. Do not leave your child in the car while you take things out because you don't want to disturb him or her.
2.) Always lock your car and make sure that 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.