Every year, dozens of children die in preventable non-traffic related car incidents such as trunk entrapments, heatstroke (intentionally and unintentionally leaving children in the car), back-overs and power window strangulations. At least 110 children have died in these types of accidents this year, according to the national non-profit organization KidsAndCars.org.
One common problem that puts kids in danger is leaving them alone in vehicles -- whether the engines are on or off.
A recent poll by Harris Interactive commissioned by Kids In Cars shows that up to 30 percent of American adults with children under 12 have left their child alone in a vehicle. Of those, 25 percent left them at a gas station, 24 percent at a convenience store, 24 percent in a garage or driveway at home, followed by the grocery store, post office and dry cleaners.
A friend of mine is known to leave her children in the car while she runs in to Starbucks for her morning java. She's the mother of three, well-educated, a registered nurse.
"It's a problem that crosses all social and economic boundaries," says Michele Struttmann, director of the non-profit KidsInCars.org. Struttman's 2-year-old son, Harrison, was killed by a van that was put into motion by two toddlers left alone in the vehicle while their parents stood behind the running van talking.
And the potential hazards with cars and kids don't decrease as they get older. We simply have new fears and concerns -- such as how to minimize reckless driving behaviors in teenagers.
While nothing can replace parental supervision, there are a number of products on the market (or coming to market soon) that can help parents prevent deadly accidents and ease our fears.
Here's your guide to the latest and greatest gizmos to help keep children of all ages safe in and around cars.
According to KidsAndCars.org (not to be confused with KidsInCars.org), 24 percent of non-traffic related automobile fatalities in kids 15 years or younger are due to a child being left in the car in hot weather. "There are systems already installed in our vehicles to warn us that we have left our headlights on or our keys in the ignition. Our precious children deserve at least the same protection," said Janette Fennell of Kids And Cars.
Exhausted and distracted working parents can simply forget to drop their child at daycare and go straight to work. They grab their purse or briefcase off the passenger's seat and head in to work, never realizing that they have a quiet or sleeping child in the back seat. Or, other parents leave their child in the car for a "quick errand" not realizing that even mild temperatures can be deadly to small children.
Helfpul Gadget and Tips:
NASA Child Presence Sensor (CPS) ($20-$30 Available Early 2006)
Developed by NASA with the input of Kids And Cars, the Child Presence Sensor contains two parts: A small sensor that can be slipped under the padding of any child-restraint device; and an alarm that gets attached to the driver's keychain. If the driver leaves the vehicle without first removing the child, the keychain alarm beeps continuously. This product is expected to be available to the general public in early 2006.
Tips: There are several things you can do to avoid intentionally or unintentionally leaving your children in the car (tips provided with collaboration of KidsInCars.org and KidsAndCars.org)