Studies show that at least 25 children die each year as a result of being left alone in hot vehicles. One Detroit mother left her two-year-old in the car for four hours while she got her hair done. Another mother left an infant in a car seat to go have drinks at the bar. What parents don’t realize is that there are many dangers involved with leaving a child alone in a car.
“Infants don’t have the temperature regulation you have as an adult,” says Chris Bengivengo, a Lieutenant for the St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. “They are much more sensitive to variations in the temperature than we are.” It doesn’t take long for an infant in such heat to be subject to heat stroke and seizures, which lead to brain damage or even death.
But leaving the car running and cool is not the answer. “Half the time we go out for a child locked in a vehicle, the car is still running and the doors locked when they closed up the car,” Bengivengo said. “You get there and try to coach the child to lift the lock from the inside or push the button. Usually the kids see it as a game,” and they can’t or won’t unlock the car. Chris gets two calls a week from worried parents who left their child in a car and the doors got locked accidentally.
Did you know that in 2002 there were over 110 hypothermia deaths of children left in cars in the United States? And according to USA Today, this number is nowhere close to the actual statistics. Many of these deaths go unreported.
The weather factor is not the only worry here. There have been hundreds of stolen vehicle incidents in which an innocent child was left unattended, sleeping in the back seat.
Then there is the issue of kidnappings. I did an Internet search for “Children kidnapped from cars” and the results were startling. As I browsed the available stories, I saw incident after incident of children being taken while parents ran into grocery stores or went inside the bank. This is very disturbing.
In North Carolina, a new law has been passed that will fine a parent for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. They can avoid charges and court costs by attending a three-hour class at The Family Center. The class costs $75. Detroit is working on a similar bill.
Is this enough? Is a $75 fine going to be a lesson to a parent? I don’t think so. There needs to be a greater punishment than that. I do like making the parent attend a child safety class. Maybe all parents should have to do this regardless. I don’t know. What I do know is that this is all too common of a problem.
I was watching the local news two weeks ago and I saw the news van driving around, finding children left in cars. It made me sick. One child had been sitting in a cold car for so long that she was shivering and in tears. Her sweater was hardly warm enough for the 25-degree F temperature. The news team then called authorities. When the police arrived, there were still no signs of the mother. Eventually they found her coming out of a nail salon. Now, if you have ever gotten your nails done, you know that it takes an hour or more, easy. Sometimes, if you have to wait, it could take almost two hours. Could you imagine leaving a child in a car that entire time? How awful. The worst part is that there isn’t a law in Detroit yet, so all the police could do was ask the mother to turn the heat on for the little girl. I wanted to cry. This to me seems like a case for Child Protective Services!
What do you think? What is an appropriate punishment?