By Dennis Thompson
FRIDAY, July 14, 2017 (HealthDay News) — On July 2, a 7-week-old baby boy died after being left in his grandmother’s van for almost eight hours on a hot summer day in Mary Esther, FL.
The boy’s mother placed the infant in a rear-facing car seat in the van after church. But the grandmother wasn’t told the baby was in the vehicle, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s office.
By the time the grandmother realized the baby was in the van, he had already died from the heat.
Sadly, that youngster isn’t alone. 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, child safety experts explained.
“It’s surprisingly common, and the thing that’s most important is it’s 100-percent preventable,” said Dr. Ben Hoffman, director of the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Tom Sargent Safety Center in Portland, Ore. “Anybody is capable of forgetting a child in a car.”
Seven hundred kids died between 1998 and 2016 from overheating in a stiflingly hot car, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
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 tragedies most often occur due to miscommunication, absent-mindedness or an overloaded schedule, said Lorrie Walker, a training and technical advisor for the advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide.
“Parents don’t necessarily do this on purpose, or because they’re not a good parent,” Walker said. “It’s really easy to point fingers and say these are terrible people, and they’re not. This is just a failure of circumstance that leads to the horrendous and horrific death of their child.”
Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related vehicle deaths for children 14 and under, according to the NHTSA.
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.
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