Experts: Child hot-car deaths more common than expected across United StatesJuly 10, 2012
The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS – The news that two parents in separate central Indiana incidents left their young child in a sweltering vehicle during a record heat wave has stirred outrage, but national child car-safety advocates say that, in reality, it happens more often than people realize and it happens to all kinds of parents.
Janette Fennell tracks these cases as the president and founder of KidsAndCars.org. She says that perhaps 90 percent of the time, the parent is the type to put latches on their doors and padding around the coffee table.
She has met college professors, lawyers and ministers who have done it. Only a small percentage, she said, have drug problems or have had interactions with child protective services. "It's the exact opposite of the stereotype," she said.
The organization has been tallying fatal incidents where children have been left in cars since 1998. They count 550 cases nationwide where a child has died from hyperthermia or heat stroke while in a car. In 2010, at least 51 children died; in 2011, there were 33. The children have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years old, though more than half of the dead are 2 years old or younger.
Of those cases, 52 percent of the parents didn't realize they had left the children there; 17 percent left the kids there knowingly. In 30 percent of the cases, the child managed to get into the car alone.
But how does it happen? How does a parent forget his or her child?
Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, said so many factors can contribute to such a scenario — a change in routine, stress, lack of sleep. That might be especially true with a young, new parent.
"We can't rush to judgment," Carr said.
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