The thought of a parent leaving (sometimes forgetting) their child alone in a car is unimaginable, but the reality is that this happens! On average, 40-50 kids die each year in the U.S from being left or forgotten in a vehicle. The cause of death?
The temperature inside a car on a summer day, even with the windows rolled down an inch, can quickly rise above 120 to 140 F. Even on a relatively mild day, the temperature inside a car can get above 100 F. At temperatures like this, kids are at high risk for heatstroke, which can lead to high fever, dehydration, seizures, stroke, and ultimately death.
You may believe the chances of this happening to your child are highly unlikely, I mean how could a parent possibly forget their child in the back seat? How could their child get into the car without their knowledge?
Well, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published these cases from the death certificates of 804 children who have died in hot cars since 1994. In approximately 55% of these cases, the parent was unaware the child was in the vehicle.
• A 6-month-old “baby died when accidentally left in a hot car for three hours, died when outside 90 F temperatures rose to 130 F inside the closed car, parents thought the other had carried the baby from the car to crib.”
• A 9-month-old died after being “left strapped in a child safety seat in a sweltering minivan for two hours – misunderstanding between child’s parents resulted in the child being left alone in the van; one parent believed infant was at home with other.”
• A 23-month-old died when a “relative babysitting child, put the child in the car for a trip to the store, went back in the house having forgotten something, was distracted by something on television, sat on the couch to watch, fell asleep, woke up two hours later.”
• A 2-year-old “child apparently slipped away from parents and siblings, fell asleep atop a blanket in an unlocked car in the driveway of the home, oldest sibling found child 40 minutes later.”
• A 2-year-old died after a “parent left child in the car after returning home from errand – was left for more than an hour.”
These descriptions are shocking, to say the least. But these tragic and preventable deaths may all be put to an end thanks to a 12-year-old boy named Bishop Curry from McKinney, Texas.
The Oasis Device
Two years ago Bishop came up with the idea to invent a device called the Oasis. You can attach it to a headrest or car seat, and its purpose is to sense if a child is left alone while simultaneously monitoring the temperature inside the vehicle. Once the temperature gets to a certain level, that’s when the device blows out cold air all while also alerting parents and authorities.
He came up with the idea after his neighbor’s 6-month-old baby girl died from being left in an overheated car. Initially, he had made a 3-D clay model of the Oasis device with hopes to have enough money to manufacture the real product one day.
Since then he and his father have managed to raise $50,292 of their $20,000 goal on gofundme.com. This money is currently being put towards manufacturing the final product and securing the patent. According to nbcnews.com, Toyota, the car manufacturing company, was so impressed by Bishop’s idea that they sent him and his dad to Michigan for a safety conference.
His father proudly tells NBC that he works for Bishop, filling out his emails, answering his telephone calls, and taking Bishop to his meetings with the attorney. “People are donating to a belief, a belief that the world can change through one child,” says Bishop’s father.
So as parents wait for the day they can finally own this life-saving device, what can be done in the meantime to prevent such an unnecessary tragedy from happening?
Look Before You Lock: Make it a habit that you check the back seat each time you get out of the car before you lock the door, even if you aren’t transporting your child. Doing this every time will instill the habit.
• Get your kids out of the car first, and then worry about getting the groceries, etc., out of the car when you get home.
• When running errands, don’t leave your child in a car. Even if it’s just a few minutes, a car can quickly heat up, especially on a hot, sunny day.
• Keeping your car locked and your keys out of reach, so kids can’t get in the car by themselves.
• If a child is missing, in addition to checking the backyard and any other areas, make sure to check inside the vehicle and trunk of any nearby cars.
Leaving the car running and the air conditioning on doesn’t make your child any safer. The child could get abducted, or they could put the car in drive. Anything can happen! Currently, 20 out of the 50 states have laws against leaving children in vehicles unattended.
If you happen to come across an incident where someone has left their kid(s) in a car:
• Call 911 immediately.
• Use your judgment, if the child is in obvious distress get them out of the car ASAP!
• The police might tell you to break the window.
Parents are not perfect, and mistakes can happen. However, it’s never okay to leave children alone inside a car. So please don’t do it. Take those extra precautions, store those keys in a place where they can’t be reached, be mindful, check the back seat, and always communicate with your partner, babysitter, or family about the whereabouts of your child.