Heat wave raises danger to infants left in hot cars

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Child in car seat

Rising national temperatures pose a serious risk to infants left in car seats, even accidentally. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Every year, a number of people, mostly unwittingly, leave their children inside their cars to perish as the summer sun raises the temperature in the vehicle. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of a hot summer has been a number of infants left in hot cars, many of which unfortunately perished.

Heat raises danger of leaving infants left in hot cars

According to the Indianapolis Star, Joshua Stryzinsky, 18, faces felony neglect charges for leaving his infant daughter Chloe, 4 months old, in his car on Saturday, July 7. Stryzinsky forgot she was sitting in her car seat. He went to his car to pick up the girl’s mother from work and saw her in her car seat. He extricated her and his brother called paramedics. Chloe suffered third degree burns to her legs and arms which were exposed due to the one-piece outfit he dressed her in to keep her cool, resulting in her death.

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Stryzinsky isn’t a delinquent or a drug addict; by all accounts, he and the girl’s mother are upstanding, good people. He also isn’t alone.

Most have no idea

Most who experience this tragedy are not dangerous parents. Safe Kids estimates parents didn’t know their child was in the car in 52 percent of occurrences. In a further 30 percent of such instances, the child crawled into the car without the parents’ knowledge. Only in 17 percent of cases did the parents do so knowingly.

In many reports, a parent or guardian forgets to drop a child off at day care, sometimes because they aren’t used to doing so. In Louisville, Kent., according to the Daily Mail, a man forgot his eight-month-old was in the back seat of his truck in June. He didn’t usually drop him off at day care. A nearly identical instance occurred in May in Sugar Land, Texas, according to ABC Houston. The article also quotes Donna Hicks of Houston, who similarly forgot to drop her grandson at day care partially due to not being used to doing so, resulting in the child’s death in 2008.

Columnist Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, wrote in a 2010 column reprinted in April by the Tampa Bay Times, nearly did the same with his two-year-old daughter. Luckily, she spoke as he arrived at work and he dropped her off at day care after realizing the mistake. He also observes that a Florida veterinarian, Karen Murphy, wasn’t as lucky. Her two-year-old son died of heat stroke that year.

Small but terrible number

Temperatures can rise faster than some might think in a car. The sun can cause a car’s interior to reach 99 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 minutes with an outside temperate of 80 degrees, according to the Daily Mail. In full sunlight on a 66-degree day, a car’s temperature can reach more than 100. Children’s internal temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s.

According to ABC Houston, 38 children die annually on average due to heat stroke after being left in a  car. Safe Kids Worldwide, according to the Indianapolis Star, counts 550 deaths since 1998. The organization estimates 51 deaths in 2010 and 33 in 2011. Five had died this year as of June 19, 2012, according to the Daily Mail. According to NBC-2, an NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, Fla., Texas leads the nation in the number of instances, followed by Florida.

According to Weingarten’s column, which won a Pulitzer Prize, safety advocacy group Kids and Cars estimate that authorities conclude deaths are accidents in 40 percent of cases. When authorities decide to prosecute, the other 60 percent of the time, they tend to do so aggressively, despite doing so often under the same laws.


Indianapolis Star

Daily Mail

ABC 13 Houston

Tampa Bay Times: http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/what-happens-after-a-child-left-in-a-hot-car-dies/1222689

NBC 2: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/15318919/2011/08/23/1-year-old-left-in-hot-car-dies-parents-arrested

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