Now that we’ve reached 100 degree days, you wouldn’t think it would be necessary to remind people of the danger of allowing their children to remain in their vehicle while they run errands. But the bizarre trial of the Georgia father who is accused of leaving his small son inside his car has drawn interest to this horrible “accident.”
And I’m not even talking about idiots like the Crowley woman who recently told six children to ride on the roof and trunk of her car to dry out their bathing suits. All were thrown off when she took a curve, and one has sustained a brain injury.
Heat stroke is a serious problem
Nationally 15 children have already died from heat stroke death this year and over 500 children have lost their lives over the last 14 years in this entirely preventable way. This is shocking, not only as a personal injury attorney but also as a father.
In the Georgia case, it was 92 degrees outside, but 140 inside the vehicle with the windows rolled up.
Heat stroke can cause brain, liver, and kidney damage, in addition to shock, seizures, and irregular heartbeat. It can be fatal if the body temperature exceeds 107 degrees. Children’s bodies heat up far more quickly than adults do.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of deaths for small children in non-crash motor vehicle cases. And far too many parents — 23% in one study — admit that they have left a child alone in their vehicle.
Warning signs for heatstroke
The symptoms of heatstroke include:
• Headache, nausea, shallow breathing, dizziness, and confusion
• Rapid pulse
• Altered mental state
If you suspect that someone is sufferering from heat stroke, it is imperative that you call 911 immediately. Get them cold quickly with air conditioning and cold wet towels.
Solutions to this deadly problem
Should the state and federal governments impose restrictions, as they do for seatbelt usage? Should auto makers install warning devices, which they do now when drivers don’t buckle up, headlights are left on, or the key is left in the ignition?
Should state and local law enforcement agencies more vigorously enforce our laws which make this a crime, comparable to their intense interest in catching speeders?
Furthermore, starting in 2018, all new cars will be required to have rear-visibility technology. This new rule is designed to prevent more than 200 people, one third of them small children, from accidentally being run over each year.
The head of the National Transportation Safety Administration, David Friedman, believes that people should not rely on technology. Instead, he suggest that people use common sense and not look their vehicles before they check the back seat. He recommends that drivers leave a valuable object like a cell phone there to remind them to check.
Texas and 18 other states outlaw the cruel practice of leaving a child unattended. Our law is found in the Penal Code, § 22.10:
LEAVING A CHILD IN A VEHICLE.
(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child
in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the
(1) younger than seven years of age; and
(2) not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years or older.
Texas only makes this crime a Class C misdemeanor. This is the least serious possible criminal offense. Our state legislators should increase the punishment level to discourage people from breaking this serious — but easily forgotten — law.
Berenson Law will fight to make sure you recover the money you deserve if you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle accident.