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Do not leave kids alone in vehicles
July 23, 2017, 1:14 pm

Despite warnings by authorities and fatal incidents reported in media, people still continue to leave children locked inside vehicles during summer while they go about shopping or other activities.

Child experts say that dozens of children die every year from heat stroke after being left in a hot car, most often because a parent forgot them in the back seat. "It is surprisingly common, and the thing that's most important is it is 100-percent preventable," said Dr. Ben Hoffman, director of a local children’s hospital in Oregon.

According to US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 1998 and 2016, more than 700 kids died from overheating while in stiflingly hot cars. Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related vehicle deaths for children 14 and under, said the NHTSA, adding that, more than half the time, the child died because their caregiver forgot they were in the vehicle and left them behind, the NHTSA said.

These horrendous tragedies most often occur due to miscommunication, absent-mindedness or an overloaded schedule. In 54 percent of cases, the child died because they were forgotten in the car, according to federal statistics. Only 17 percent of the time do children die because an adult intentionally left them in the car, while they went to engage in some other activity.

These intentional cases are the ones the authorities really struggle with, because they have been repeatedly warning people not to leave their child alone in a car, not even for one minute.

Cars heat up very quickly, even in conditions a person might reasonably consider safe, such as on a cloudy day or in shaded areas. A car interior can heat as much as 20 degrees within 10 minutes. And even at an outside temperature of 15°C, it can quickly reach 45°C inside the car.

Authorities warn that sunlight hitting against the windows of a car can soon make the inside like a convection oven. Rolling down the window a little bit does nothing to relieve the temperature inside, they add.

Children are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke as their body temperature heats up three to five times faster than that of adults. Heat stroke begins when core temperature reaches about 40°C, and a temperature of 42 could prove lethal.

Many countries are now looking at making it mandatory for cars to be equipped with a system to alert drivers if a passenger remains in the back seat after the engine is shut off. In many places, cars are mandated to have seat belts, interior trunk-releases and rear backup cameras; it would only take just another step to mandate safety features to protect children.

However, there is no real substitute to just being vigilant. Parents should do anything they can to get in the habit of never leaving a kid alone in a car. If a child is never left alone in a car, just horrific accidents would never happen.

Anyone who sees a child left unattended in a car should immediately contact authorities; do not give it a second thought. In Kuwait, immediately dial 112.

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