We’ve addressed this horrific subject before. This time it’s hit pretty close to home.
As Alabama media reported recently, an 11-month-boy died after he and his twin sister — who survived — were left for more than three hours strapped into their car seats inside a vehicle parked between Anniston and Oxford, Alabama, where their father was an employee. The temperature outside when the children were found was 91 degrees, according to media reports. The temperature inside the vehicle, based on the tables for determining such things, probably was 30-plus degrees higher.
We’re not going to sit in judgment of anyone connected with this tragedy. A family has been shattered in unspeakable and life-altering ways; they need love, prayers and support not just from those close to them, but from their community.
We’re also not going to dwell on “how,” as some who cannot conceive of parents forgetting about their children will of course increduously if not self-righteously do, because we’ve seen “how” — way too often.
According to KidsandCars.org, an average of 38 children die each year child vehicular heatstroke from being left inside cars. That’s one every nine days.
When two toddlers died inside a car in Hinesville, Georgia, the number of hot car deaths for the year rose to 49, according to KidsandCars.org. That’s closing on the record death toll of 54 in 2018.
You want some reasons rather than “how?” Listen to a parent in Washington, D.C., who in 2008 thought he’d dropped his son off at day care, but instead left him in the car with fatal results. (He was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.)
“When this happened to me, people wanted to kill me,” he said in a BBC interview reprinted at KidsandCars.org. “They make you a monster, because if they demonize you, it means it can’t happen to someone like them.
“It can happen to anyone, though, from any background,” he said. “It’s when there’s a new routine, maybe you’re sleep-deprived and you go into auto-pilot.
Think he’s making excuses? Raise your hands if you’ve ever been overworked, stressed out and buried underneath mammoth to-do lists from sometimes multiple jobs and other responsibilities; had to get up and face the day trying to divide your focus between those and a jillion other things; been discombobulated by a change in your routine — and forgotten something?
U.S. auto manufacturers in August announced that by 2025, they hope to have audio and visual reminders for drivers to check their back seats installed in all new cars. Until then, KidsandCars.org offers a safety checklist:
Get into the habit of opening the back door every time you park to ensure no one is left behind.
Place an important item — employee badge, cellphone, purse, etc. — in the back seat as a reminder.
Clearly announce and confirm who’s getting each child out of a vehicle.
A version of this editorial first appeared in the Gadsden (Ala.) Times