In the past month, two children with connections to Utah tragically died after being left alone in vehicles. A 2-year-old from Idaho was left in a car in St. George for hours and in Las Vegas, a 3-year-old from Fillmore was left for just an hour.
Unfortunately, this kind of tragedy happens far too often. In Utah, nine children have died from heat stroke after being left inside vehicles since 1998 to 2016. According to NoHeatStroke.org, so far, this year, 26 children have died in the U.S. due to vehicular heat stroke. And since 1998, 726 children left in vehicles have died from heat stroke.
These numbers are far too high. We all say that we would never let this happen to our children, but sadly, so did many of the parents who have lost children. Many do not understand a child’s body temperature can rise as much as five times faster than an adult’s. Heat stroke begins when the core body temperature reaches around 104 degrees, and death can follow in a child when this temperature reaches 107 degrees.
In 2011, the Utah Legislature passed SB124, Leaving a Child Unattended in a Motor Vehicle, which made it illegal to leave a child under the age of 9 unattended in a motor vehicle. The purpose of this law is to help raise awareness of how serious and dangerous it is to leave a young child alone in a vehicle.
As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s National Heatstroke Awareness Day approaches on July 31, this is a reminder that we all must remain vigilant in preventing these heartbreaking deaths. There are things each of us can to do prevent these tragic occurrences. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids and Cars, National Safety Council and Safe Kids Worldwide provide tips and resources to help prevent these tragedies.
Safety tips include:
- Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute, even if it is parked in the shade or has open, cracked or tinted windows.
- Always lock the vehicle’s doors, and keep the keys out of reach of children.
- Place a stuffed animal or another toy in the child’s car seat, and when the child is placed in the seat, move the toy in front with the driver.
- Place an item, such as a cellphone or bag, in the back seat,as a reminder.
- Set a calendar reminder on your electronic device for daycare drop-offs.
- Have a plan in place with your child-care provider to contact you if your child does not show up for school by a certain time.
- Call 911 if you see a child alone in a car — no matter the outside temperature.
There are also technological solutions that can ensure children are not forgotten in vehicles. Several car seat models will notify you if there is a child in the seat when the vehicle is turned off. Some vehicle manufacturers also have technology that will automatically notify you when the vehicle shuts off if the back door was opened or closed before it starts or while it’s running. We need to stop saying “I would never do that” and start taking everyday precautions to end these preventable deaths.
The following members of the Utah House of Representatives have signed the op-ed:
Rep. Norm Thurston
Rep. Carl R. Albrecht
Rep. Patrice Arent
Rep. Walt Brooks
Rep. Kim Coleman
Rep Bruce Cutler
Rep. Brad Daw
Rep. Jim Dunnigan
Rep. Steve Eliason
Rep. Justin Fawson
Rep. Gage Froerer
Rep. Adam Gardiner
Rep. Craig Hall
Rep. Stephen Handy
Speaker of the House Greg Hughes
Rep. John Knotwell, Assistant Majority Whip
Rep. Cory Maloy
Rep. Kelly Miles
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss
Rep. Lee Perry
Rep. Susan Pulsipher
Rep. Tim Quinn
Rep. Paul Ray
Rep. Douglas Sagers
Rep. Scott Sandall
Rep. Lowry Snow
Rep. Robert Spendlove
Rep. Jon Stanard
Rep. Christine Watkins
Rep. John Westwood
Rep. Logan Wilde
Rep. Brad Wilson, Majority Leader
Rep. Mike Winder