Children Left in Cars
Recently in Pasco County, some inmates helped rescue a baby locked inside a vehicle. The parents of the child accidentally locked her in the car, leaving their keys on the front seat. A Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Inmate supervisor and five low-risk offenders repairing a parking lot meridian nearby offered to help. With a coat hanger and a special, “skill set” the inmates were able to open the door and retrieve the child.
While it seems unfathomable, people leave their children behind in the car several times a year. In 2018, over 50 children died in hot cars according to safety advocacy website, Kidsandcars.org.
The website highlights University of South Florida Psychology Professor, David Diamond’s work on why people forget and leave a child behind in a car. He explains it has to do with the complex functions of the brain. He states that the problem is the failure of prospective memory, the process by which the brain remembers to do something in the future. Professor Diamond says, “The brain memory systems that fail when people forget children in cars are the same as those systems that cause us to forget to shut off the headlights when we arrive at a destination.”
Several brain processes are involved with leaving a child in the car. Many factors can disrupt these processes such as stress, interruptions, multitasking, and sleep deprivation. Also, Professor Diamond points out, the lack of visual or verbal reminders increase the chance of a child being left in the car.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports heatstroke is one of the leading causes of non-crash-related fatalities among children. When a child is left in a hot car, their temperature can rise quickly.
Children are vulnerable to heatstroke. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the following are some facts about kids and heatstroke.
Kids aren’t built for heat: A child’s body temperatures rises 3-5 times faster than an adult.
Every minute counts: The temperature of a car can climb 20 degrees in 20 minutes.
It doesn’t have to be hot: Heatstroke can occur in the shade, with the windows down, and even at temperatures as low as 57 degrees.