This week our community has been the subject of national news coverage of another child left in a car to suffer heat stroke and die. The Today Show has reported on the tragedy just this morning. A Cobb County four-year-old life was cut short after his father allegedly failed to take him to day care, left him in the car and went to work, only to remember that he was in the back seat while driving home. According to USA Today, which picked up our local story, in the past 14 years, over 500 kids have lost their lives being left in vehicles in the heat. The child’s dad has now been charged with murdering his son. Although there have been other cases in the past around the country in which parents have left kids in vehicles and gone to work, some are not charged at all after authorities conclude that the situation was purely accidental and others, as happened in this case, are charged with felonies as authorities determine that the severe negligence warrants a criminal charge. In this case, the father has been charged with two crimes under Georgia law, including cruelty to children in the first degree and murder.
Just last month, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced a campaign called “Look Again.” This effort is targeted at parents and caregivers to check the back seat of their vehicles to avoid leaving a child behind. Often these cases involve parents who are distracted and going to work. In the past four years, nearly ten children have died in this way just in Georgia alone. In the Cobb County case, once the dad realized as he was driving home that his son was in the back seat, his efforts to revive his little boy were fruitless. He was said to be very distraught at the scene. There have been similar cases in which one parent is supposed to take a child to day care, but forgets. This situation can happen when a routine is broken or a parent is distracted. This week alone, a Florida infant was left behind her dad’s truck and died.
Several years ago, the Washington Post published a piece about children left behind in vehicles during warm months. This tragedy cuts across all economic lines and all walks of life … parents and care givers who are ceos, college professors and cooks … all have dealt with the consequences of leaving a child in this way. We are reminded in the piece about the reason why kids are now in the back seat of vehicles, it is safer for them to ride there. But the deaths continue and although there are possible solutions to this problem that have been proposed, they have not been mandated. These include warning systems and fans that could be installed in vehicles to keep kids cooler in the event they are accidentally left behind in a car. Regardless of the outside temperature, kids should not be left alone in a vehicle for a number of safety reasons. In the Cobb County case, the child was left for about seven hours. Vehicle interiors are known to become much hotter than the outdoor temperature. Within just a few minutes, an outdoor temperature of 90 degrees, for example, can result an interior car temperature of 150 degrees.
Experts suggest that leaving a diaper bag in the front seat can serve as a reminder that your child is in the back. Another suggestion is to leave your cell phone in the back seat to make it more likely that you will go to the back to pick it up and see your child. For more information on keeping kids safe and avoiding heat stroke in vehicles, visit KidsAndCars.org. This organization is dedicated to keeping children safe in and around vehicles. In their view, the most devoted parent can become distracted, anxious or otherwise forgetful and leave a child behind. They ask parents to look before they lock the car doors — a similar effort to that of the Georgia’s “Look Again” campaign.