I worried for awhile (what? worry? who me?) because I was not observing Corrigan playing with toys in the manner in which they were intended. In fact, at Christmas-time I made it a point to watch him for an entire day to see if there were any toys that he played with properly. Sadly, there were none.
He played around his toys, he enjoyed swatting them away, he liked to dump things but he did not push the proper buttons on any of his “electronic” toys, he did not properly play with chunky puzzles, he didn’t hold up stuffed animals and play with them, he did not build with bricks or blocks and he definitely did not seem to understand things like toy cars.
Like all things “Corrigan” things happen at his own pace. He is now 2 days away from 25 months old and he finally understands how some of his toys are meant to be used. Some. Right now, I will take “some” and encourage the things that he does understand. Currently, his “love” are cars. Mainly regular-sized Hot Wheels cars but Connor let him borrow a few of his bigger cars from his younger days and Corrigan has hardly put them down.
Cor’s fascination with all things “car” extends to the real things as well. He likes to stand in the front yard and watch them drive by the house. He also likes to walk around-and-around a parked car because in Maryland there has to be a license plate on both the rear and the front of the vehicle. Corrigan loves that there are letters and numbers on the plates and walks around to touch each one…exclaiming, “TWO!” for each number and “D!” for each letter. According to Corrigan, every license plate in Maryland is 2D2 DD2.
It is that time of year though that real cars can become death-traps for little children. This is the time of year that the nightly news makes mention of another family’s horror when they discover that they accidentally left their sweet little angel in a parked, hot car.
It is also the time of year that curious little kids discover the fun of playing hide-and-seek in an unlocked vehicle, or the scare-yourself-on-purpose-fun of hiding in a dark empty trunk. It is the time of year that your travel-loving, three-year old wants to go “bye bye” so badly that she decides to sneak out of the front door and “wait” for you in the car. The sad tragedy happens when the parent has no clue what the little one is up to. This is the time of year that a parked car kills.
I knew that I wanted to write this blog post last evening. This morning I woke to find a Facebook post from local Baltimore station WJZ 13 that a little girl narrowly escaped death from hyperthermia after her DayCare did not realize that she was sleeping in the back on the van after a field trip.
According to the department of Geosciences there have already been 18 deaths due to children being left in hot cars for 2010. EIGHTEEN! Last year, in 2009, there were at least 33 of these deaths in the United States. Since 1998 there have been a total of 463 hyperthermic-deaths.
According to this report, 51% of those deaths were “forgotten” by busy,tired or distracted caregivers and 30% were because of a child playing in an unlocked vehicle. The greatest majority of these tragedies happen to children under the age of 1 year old (30%) and more than half of the deaths are children under the age of 2!
Interestingly, in the three-year period of 2006-2009, when almost all young children are secured in the back seat due to airbags, there have been 108 known fatalities from hyperthermia. This is a TEN-FOLD increase from the early 90’s when airbags were less common. Due to airbags (which are valuable safety tools!) we now place all of our kids in the backseat. The problem is, we cannot see them back there easily. When our kids are out-of-sight, they sometimes slip out-of-mind.
Heatstrokes occur when body temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their system becomes overwhelmed. Symptoms are dizziness, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness, rapid heart beat and hallucinations.
A child’s system is not as efficient as a grown-up’s system and their body temps warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s!
In yet another strange coincidence, the New York Times, just this morning, posted an article about this very same topic. I only just found it when I was Googling for more statistics for this post. There are some sobering stories in that article. They break my heart. Obviously, this topic is on a lot of people’s minds.
The thing is that a 95degree day makes me think of the horrors of hyperthermia but these tragedies can happen on days when the temperature seems pretty mild. On a 72 degree day, the interior (especially if a black or dark interior) can quickly heat up to a temperature of over 200 degrees F. Leaving a window down a few inches does. not. help.
I would also like to make mention that hyperthermia kills pets as well. “Cracking” the window for your dog while you go and shop at Costco is negligent and unacceptable as well. Please, leave your pets at home on summer days.
1. NEVER EVER EVER EVER leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Not for a single minute.
2. If you see a child in a car, unattended, call the authorities. If you, God forbid, notice a distressed, obviously heat sick, child in a locked car BREAK THAT WINDOW.
I mean this. The time that it takes to wait for rescue could be too long. A window can be replaced. A child cannot.
3. Always lock your vehicle when not in use. Make sure that you keep your keys out of reach of children who are easily able to unlock vehicles with remote entry key fobs.
4. A great tip that I found is to leave your purse or cell phone on the backseat beside your child. Women never forget their purses, by having to reach into the backseat for theirs they will see the child.
5. Place a stuffed animal in your car. When you are driving with your child, place the stuffed animal beside you on the passenger seat to remind you that you are carrying precious cargo.
6. Always check the backseat when you leave. Make it a routine thing to do.
7. Ask your child care provider about their “head count” policy at the school/daycare and how often they account for the children, especially after an outing or field trip.
Finally, I want to dedicate this post to Ava Rosemeyer. Ava’s mommy, Sheye, is a much-loved, well-respected photographer. Three years ago, beautiful Ava left this world after climbing into a parked car in her family’s driveway. I remember, so clearly, when this tragedy occurred and how the sadness ripped through the photo community. To this day, when I hear of a child dying in a hot car I instantly think of beautiful Ava. Please, take a minute to read Ava’s story here.
I would like to point you in the direction of other much more qualified organizations for more information about hot car safety. If you would like more information please visit:
1. 4 Our Kids Sake
3. Kids and Cars
4. Forget Me Not USA
Edited to Add: Shortly after publishing this post I was directed to this Pulizter Prize Winning article in the Washington Post. What a heartbreaking piece to read. Please know that I did not post this blog entry as judgement to any parent suffering the loss of a child to this tragic kind of accident. Awareness can help…judgement cannot. This quote, from the Washington Post article, kills me even after reading it three times, “In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.”
Just when you think that it cannot happen to you…well, we know how that can end. Do not let your belief in your own capabilities weaken your responsibility. It CAN happen, it DOES happen and vigilance saves lives.
My thoughts are with every parent that discovered their child in this horrible way.
I hope that your family has a safe and happy weekend!
Much Love, Mindy