Entries in Cars (4)


Hot Car Hazard: Parent Forgetfulness Can Be Deadly

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One hot summer day, Brandi Koskie strapped her 2-week old daughter Paisley into her rear-facing car seat and drove off to run some errands. As her daughter slept peacefully, Koskie parked, got out of the car, locked the door and walked away.

Fortunately she remembered within a minute that she had left her baby behind.

"I ran back, unbuckled her and held her. I was sobbing and shaking for probably 10 minutes afterwards," said Koskie, who is from Wichita, Kansas. "I kept thinking about how the worst might have happened."

Most parents think they could never make the mistake of leaving their baby in the car in sweltering heat. Yet according to the advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide, Koskie was right to be upset. The outcome can be tragic.

In the first week of August alone, according to another group, Kids and Cars, eight children across the United States died from heatstroke in hot vehicles; nearly 40 children die this way each year.

Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, happens when the body's thermostat is overwhelmed with heat. Safe Kids USA says children are at the greatest risk because their bodies heat up 3 to 5 times more quickly than an adult’s.

What sort of parent could be so negligent? Although often portrayed as monsters in the media and sometimes even charged with manslaughter or child abuse, Jeff Brown, an assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says they are often otherwise loving and attentive parents who feel hassled, distracted and confused.

"It can happen so easily if someone is overwhelmed and hyper-focused on what they have to do. When you're trying to multitask and do too many things, the brain goes on overload. The responsibility of caring for your child just slips from your mind," he says.

One San Francisco University report that recorded 424 heat related deaths of children in 12 years found that slightly more than half occurred because the parent simply forgot the child was in the car.

Jeanne Cosgrove, the Sunrise Children's Hospital coordinator for the Safe Kids Coalition in Las Vegas, adds that kids are also more likely to be left behind when there is a change in routine and the other parent has responsibility for the child. "They go about their normal day not realizing the baby is still in the back seat," she says.

Rear-facing car seats may also be a contributing factor in parent's forgetfulness. While experts agree that a rear-facing seat increases a child's safety during a collision, the website Parent Central says, "the last time experts pushed a new campaign to put more children in rear-facing seats - in the 1990s, to cut the chances of being killed by air bags - the number of children who died in hot cars spiked."

Brown says some tricks that can help spaced out parents: Leave your purse or briefcase in the back seat so you have to retrieve it before leaving the car, play children's music on the radio as a reminder that your bundle of joy is along for the ride, and set your phone alarm with reminders that it's your day to babysit.

In some cases, parents believe it's OK if they run a quick errand and hustle back to the car. They don't want the hassle of unbuckling a seat belt and wrestling with a squirming child. But they may not realize how quickly the inside of a car can become an oven. Cosgrove says a car can heat up at a rate of more than two degrees a minute. And opening the windows does little good because much of the heat radiates off seats and dashboards.

While being in a hurry is understandable, experts agree that it's no excuse for negligence.

Richard Gallagher, an associate professor at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center, says he believes the solutions for time-strapped parents are obvious -- either leave your children at home or get them out of the car and bring them with you, even if you only plan on being gone for a few minutes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Heatstroke Prevention Products Unreliable for Saving Kids in Hot Cars

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Last year, 33 children died after being left in hot cars. But gadgets designed to prevent child deaths from being left in hot cars are not completely reliable, according to a government report released Monday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA), the Department of Transportation and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia examined 18 heatstroke devices meant to keep parents from leaving their children under 2-years-old in parked closed vehicles.  Investigators found that the devices not only worked inconsistently, but were difficult to install, often were prone to false alarms and did not account for children who let themselves into vehicles on their own.  

"About 30 percent of all the children that we lose to heatstroke left behind in hot cars is when children actually get into the car themselves, in an unlocked vehicle. …These devices would not be able to deal with that particular risk," said NHTSA administrator David Strickland.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia chose three devices available on the market at the time for more in-depth testing and found problems with all three.

Strickland says the manufacturers are working to refine this technology, but he notes that parents shouldn't rely on them alone.  

"While we feel that these devices are very well intended, we don't think that they can be used to -- as the only counter-measure to make sure you forget -- that you don't forget your child behind in a car," he said.  

The study was commissioned as part of NHTSA's "Where's Baby? Look Before You Lock" campaign.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Summer Safety: Kids Die in Hot Car Trunks

Michael Blann/Lifesize(DETROIT) -- At least 20 children have died this year after becoming trapped in hot cars and three of those deaths came because kids were stuck in the trunk.

In Oklahoma last week an 8-year-old boy was exploring the 1998 Chevy Cavalier his parents just bought, when he got stuck in the trunk and died in the heat. In Indiana, two brothers climbed into the trunk of their mom's 2000 Chevrolet Malibu and also died.

"I have a problem with that," said Janette Fennel of the advocacy group Kids and Cars, which has repeatedly called on General Motors to recall its older vehicles and install trunk safety releases that allow people inside to escape.

Starting in 2002, all cars were required to have a glow-in-the-dark safety release inside the trunk. You just pull the latch, and the trunk opens.

Fennel says no one has ever died in the trunk of a newer vehicle that has a safety release.

"Those children, I feel very certain, would be alive today if there had been a trunk release in that vehicle."

GM makes more cars than any other company, so accidents are bound to happen in its vehicles. In a statement, GM put the responsibility back on parents, saying it has " alert parents and caregivers to the dangers of leaving children unattended in or around vehicles."

ABC News asked GM if it plans to issue a recall, and the answer was 'No.'

If your vehicle was built before 2002, chances are there is no easy way to escape from inside the trunk. But in this economy, we want to make our cars last. So here are some safety tips:

  • Teach kids that cars are not toys and don't let them play in or around them.
  • Keep your car locked, even when it's parked at home in your garage or driveway.
  • Some cars have a switch in the trunk that allows you to turn off the remote function, so your trunk will only open with a key, which is much harder for small children to maneuver,
  • Some people get an extra keyless remote and keep it in their trunk.
  • You can buy a trunk safety release retrofit kit for $10 from Kids and Cars.

Leaving children in the passenger compartment of the car is another tragic occurrence every summer. Here's prevention advice offered by Safe Kids:

  • If you see an unattended child in a car, dial 911 immediately.
  • Never leave a baby unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open.
  • Place something that you will need at your next stop - for example, a purse, lunch, gym bag or briefcase - on the floor of the backseat where the child is sitting. This simple act could prevent you from accidentally forgetting your child if he or she is sleeping.
  • Be especially careful if you change your routine for dropping off babies at child care. Have a plan that if your child is late for child care, you will be called within a few minutes.
  • Watch children closely around vehicles, particularly when loading and unloading. Check to ensure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination. Do not overlook sleeping babies.

After the June deaths of two Indiana boys, General Motors provided the following statement to ABC’s Good Morning America:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Indiana boys' family and we are deeply saddened by their loss.
Keeping children safe in and around vehicles is a priority for General Motors. For more than 15 years, we have worked with Safe Kids Worldwide to provide vital child passenger safety information to parents and caregivers in communities across the country. One important part of these efforts is to alert parents and caregivers to the dangers of leaving children unattended in or around vehicles. Increasing awareness and education is critical since millions of vehicles of varying makes and models without trunk latches are still in the marketplace. Since 2001, interior trunk releases have been provided standard in all GM passenger vehicles with trunks.

As always, we encourage parents and caregivers to visit for tips on how to help keep kids safe in the warm weather months and throughout the year."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Car and on the Road

George Doyle/Stockbyte(NEW YORK) -- Danger on the roads is not just a concern for humans anymore.

As the summer driving season heats up, more and more pet owners are pulling their pooches back inside their vehicles, strapping them in and loading them up to make sure nothing bad happens to those furry creatures known as "man's best friend."

Heightened concerns about distracted driving, such as texting and talking on your smartphone, have led to a surge in the sales of doggie seat belts, harnesses and other similar devices.

Wall Street Journal columnist and ABC News Good Morning America contributor Wendy Bounds wrote about the new trend in her latest column, and now she's offering even more tips.

Here are Bounds' recommendations for the top products to use to protect your pooch while on-the-go.

  1. Pet Ramp - Cost/where to buy: Solvit Products; $25-50.
  2. Booster Seat - Cost/where to buy: Solvit Products; $100-150.
  3. Back Seat Barrier - Cost/where to buy: Kurgo Products; $40.
  4. Tru-Fit Smart Harness - Cost/where to buy: Kurgo Products; $23.
  5. Wander Hammock Car Seat Protector - Cost/where to buy: Frontgate ; $65.
  6. Pet Crate With Wheels - Cost/where to buy: Pet Gear Inc. and various online retailers; $50-$200.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio