Sadly, during the summer time, we often hear the heartbreaking stories of distressed parents discovering injured or lifeless children in their backseat. It is easy to become outraged at these cases and condemn parents and caretakers for irresponsibility. However, it is critical to remember that this can happen to anyone, even you. A temporary lapse in judgment, a deviation from the regular routine, or a quick errand could expose your child to danger and leave you or a caregiver facing criminal charges and even jail time.
For those of us raised in the south, the lack of public transportation means much of our summer travel is spent in an automobile. From endless visits to the grocery store, trips to see family, and hours of joyrides, we may be accustomed to unsupervised time in parking lots for varying lengths of time. We may even arise from those experiences without harm, but not always.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that car seats were required to face the rear and placed in the backseat of a vehicle. This law alone, while protecting young children from airbag fatalities, has left them susceptible to the further risk of being forgotten. The statistics show a correlation between these occurrences, and McAleer Law would like to remind parents and caregivers about the dangers of leaving children alone in cars.
Child safety is a serious matter. Most cases of hot car injury are accidents where no harm is deliberately inflicted. Unfortunately, intention does not supersede consequence.
- Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise 20-degrees within just ten minutes! This is especially dangerous in Georgia, where recent temperatures are regularly well into the 80s by midmorning.
- A baby’s body temperature rises faster than an adult’s, and body temperatures of 107-degrees can lead to death.
- In 2013, at least 44 children in the U.S. died after being left in unattended motor vehicles (San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences, 2014).
- Leaving a child in a hot vehicle can lead to illnesses such as heat rash, fainting, heat cramps, and heat stroke.
As of June, thirteen children have died from heatstroke this year.
There are no Georgia-specific laws regarding leaving children unattended, but the accepted guidelines on this specific subject matter work well to prevent potential injury. The general rule of thumb is that no child under 7-years-old should ever be left alone. This is especially true for infants.
In the case of death or injury, prosecution varies by state and county. Of those arrested and charged in a child’s death, the majority are convicted of child abuse, child neglect, manslaughter, or negligent homicide.
Prevent tragedy from happening to you or a child you are taking care of:
- Never leave children unattended in vehicle at any time, even if it is for a moment and the windows are down. If you are out of the vehicle, they should be as well.
- Do not allow children to play in an unattended vehicle.
- Make a habit to check the front and back seats before locking the door and walking away. Leave important object in backseat to serve as reminder.
- Request that childcare providers call if your child doesn’t show up when s/he is expected.
- If you see a child in distress or unattended in someone else’s car, remove them from the situation, and call 911 immediately.
Please encourage those in your life to heed these warnings carefully, not only in the summer months, but at all times. In the event an injury or death happens to your loved one because of a negligent caregiver, please contact McAleer Law at (404) MCALEER.