Stern Warning to Parents as Summer Nears

Summer in New England brings welcome sunlight and warmer temperatures. Longer days are spent outside by children and adults alike. Rising temperatures also bring with them a whole host of dangers, especially for children. Parents take extra precautions with their children around the pool, by the beach, and during sports, but one hidden threat remains a constant issue. A comprehensive study done by the Department of Earth & Climate Sciences at San Francisco State University reveals the number of completely preventable child heatstroke fatalities. The study specifically focuses on fatalities caused by caregivers leaving children in a hot car unattended.

In the year 2013, there were at least 44 related deaths, and in this year alone, there have been at least 13 deaths from heatstroke, and it is only June. With the worst of the summer heat still on the way, parents need to be extra vigilant when it comes to keeping their kids safe. It can be tempting to crack the window and leave children in a hot car for “just a second,” but evidence shows the risk is too great. Depending on sunlight and the interior color of the car, temperatures can reach up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Medical professionals urge parents and caregiving to check twice before leaving the car to prevent summertime fun from becoming a tragedy.

The San Francisco State University study focused on media reports of the 660 deaths attributed to children left in a hot car, and found that the heavy majority (52% or 316 cases) occurred as a result of a caregiver “forgetting” about the child in the car. About 175 cases were caused by a child playing in an unattended car. Both of these incidences are easily preventable if the appropriate precautions are taken. While only 20 states have laws specially addressing leaving children in a vehicle without supervision, parents need to understand the risks regardless. According to the San Francisco State University study:
• Heatstroke begins when a person’s core body temperature meets or exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit, overwhelming his or her thermoregulatory system.
– Symptoms include: “dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations.”
• Once the core temperature reaches 107 degrees Fahrenheit, cells are damaged and internal organs shut down, resulting in death.
• The body’s thermoregulatory systems are not quite developed in children and therefore do not work as efficiently. A child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult.
(Source: Jan Null, CCM, San Francisco State University)

The study warns that “cracking” a window makes no difference, and if left in the sun for one to two hours, the ambient temperature in the car can skyrocket up 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the interior color and material.

Safety Tips to Prevent Tragedy
• Never, under any circumstances, leave a child alone in a car, for any period of time.
• If you see a child left unsupervised in a hot car, call 9-1-1 immediately
• Check, double check, and triple check that all occupants, including sleeping babies, are out of the vehicle before you walk away.
• Make sure your car is locked at all times to prevent children from gaining access.
• “If a child is missing, always check the pool first, and then the car, including the trunk.”
• Make an emergency plan with the child’s caregiver in case the child does not show up to school.

If you think that you might have a wrongful death case or if you have any other questions about personal injury law, do not hesitate to call the personal injury attorneys of Altman & Altman LLP to schedule a free initial case evaluation. Altman & Altman LLP is a Cambridge-based boutique firm. Our personal injury lawyers are among the best in Massachusetts. Our team of professionals is both compassionate and aggressive. With more than four decades of experience, our history of success is rich. At Altman & Altman, we do not rest until our clients get the best results possible. Call the attorneys of Altman & Altman LLP at (617) 492 3000 or (800) 481 6199 toll-free, or contact us online for a free consultation. We are available twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week to answer any questions you may have.


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