Already 23 children have died of heatstroke in 2016, according to Kids and Cars, nearly as many as last year’s total.
NEWTOWN, CT — On the heels of National Child Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention & Awareness Day on Sunday, July 31, KidsAndCars.org is urgently calling upon the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require driver reminder technology in all vehicles to help to prevent the tragic deaths of babies and toddlers dying in hot cars. So far this year, at least 23 children have died of heatstroke in vehicles, nearly as many as the total for last year, KidsAndCars.org reports. Four died over the July 22-24 weekend in the states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Texas.
“Since 1990 more than 775 children have died in these preventable tragedies. Where is the outrage?” stated Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org, the only national nonprofit child safety organization dedicated solely to preventing injuries and deaths of children in and around vehicles. “Automakers have already added numerous reminders to make sure we buckle up, don’t leave keys in the ignition, don’t leave our headlights on and many more. We think a driver reminder chime to save a child’s life should be just as important as preventing a dead car battery.”
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KidsAndCars.org was formed after a life-changing event that nearly killed Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, and her family. In 1995, the couple was kidnapped at gunpoint, forced into the trunk of their car, and driven to a secluded location where they were assaulted, robbed and left for dead in the trunk of their vehicle, Fennell told Patch. All of this occurred while the couple had no idea as to the whereabouts of their 9-month-old baby who had been in the vehicle with them prior to the kidnapping. The couple was quite fortunate to have escaped the confines of their trunk and were reunited with their infant son who had been left alone in front of their home.
“After surviving such a horrific experience, I have dedicated my entire life to help prevent injury and death from the many dangers children face in and around vehicles. It’s extremely difficult to deal with the loss of precious lives every day, but we know we are making a difference,” Fennell said. “Not one person has died in the trunk of a vehicle that contains the glow-in-the-dark trunk release.”
Fennell said that in addition to preventing hot car deaths, Kids and Cars has worked on safety initiatives to prevent power window strangulation, brake transmission interlock systems and now rearview cameras to become standard on all vehicles by 2018. “Anything I can do to help prevent the predictable, preventable and senseless death of a child and keep families in tact means the world to me,” she said.
Fennell said that KidsAndCars.org was the first and only organization to not only recognize the dangers, but to begin collecting data and bring national attention to these incidents. “Many adults feel its okay to leave children alone in vehicles and in many cases they truly do not understand the risk they are exposing their children to. Parents are shocked to learn that every week over 13,000 children are injured or killed in non-traffic events.”
Trunk releases, the result of a years-long campaign by KidsAndCars.org, are an example of a successful, inexpensive solution. Required in all vehicles starting in 2002, they prevent child entrapment, saving an untold number of lives. “We know of no deaths in a vehicle equipped with a trunk release,” Fennell said.
Educational efforts, such as KidsAndCars.org’s “Look Before You Lock” program, also help to raise awareness among new parents and caregivers, but are only a partial solution. “It’s impossible to educate every parent and grandparent as well as other family members, caregivers and babysitters about the dangers,” says Susan Auriemma of KidsAndCars.org.
“We encourage individuals in all communities to take action if you see a child alone in a vehicle. Try to find the driver of the vehicle, call 911 and if the child seems to be in imminent danger, break the window furthest away from the child to rescue them,” stressed Amber Andreasen director of KidsAndCars.org. The organization offers a small tool called resqme™, an all-in-one window breaker and seat belt cutter that fits on your keychain. The spring-loaded device is tapped on the corner of a car window and the glass is shattered.
Safety Tips from KidsAndCars.org
Remember the following “Look Before You Lock” safety tips from KidsAndCars.org:
- Make it a routine to open the back door of your car every time you park to check that no one has been left behind.
- Put something in the back seat to remind you to open the back door every time you park – cell phone, employee badge, handbag, etc.
- Keep a stuffed animal in baby’s car seat. Place it on the front seat as a reminder when baby is in the back seat.
- Arrange for your babysitter or child care provider to call you if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
- Make sure children cannot get into a parked car.
- Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway.
- Keys and remote openers should never be left within reach of children.
Image by Janette Fennell