Health Minister Yael German has decided to implement a simple and inexpensive idea suggested by The Jerusalem Post’s health and science editor, which could prevent parents, caretakers and drivers from leaving small children alone in hot vehicles for hours – something that often results in their deaths.

Another such tragedy occurred in Ramat Gan on Monday, when a father distracted by a cellphone call forgot his nine-month-old daughter was in the infant seat behind him in his jeep.

He drove home, parked his car and drove his motorcycle to work – unknowingly leaving her to die in the searing heat inside. Only late that afternoon was she noticed, and Magen David Adom alerted, but paramedics were unable to resuscitate her. She was pronounced dead at Tel Hashomer’s Sheba Medical Center.

Five years ago, the Post’s Judy Siegel-Itzkovich came up with an idea she thought could prevent such tragedies. A circular sticker would be provided at vehicle licensing bureaus in any of a number of languages to suit the driver. The sticker, with room in the center for a photo of the driver’s own child or grandchild, would state: “Your child is more precious than your car; never leave a young child inside alone for even a moment!” Siegel-Itzkovich thought that regulations should require the presence of the sticker on the inside of the driver’s door for getting a new annual vehicle license.

She reasoned that, unlike the Health Ministry’s tobacco warnings, which smokers prefer to ignore, parents do not want to harm their children; by seeing the message and the photos every time they entered or exited the vehicle (or even made a left turn), it would become a subliminal message and part of their behavior.

Siegel-Itzkovich presented her idea to then-deputy health minister Ya’acov Litzman soon after he took office, but he rejected. At a press conference in his office a few years later, covering a report on children’s deaths from accidents presented by Beterem – The National Center for Children’s Safety and Health, he continued to insist it “wouldn’t work.”

A senior ministry official (and physician) said it could not be tried unless there were published medical journal articles proving it was successful.

Siegel-Itzkovich then turned to Eli Beer, founder and president of the voluntary rescue organization United Hatzalah, who after a moment’s thought pulled out his checkbook to pay for the design and printing of the first stickers in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian.

When he distributed them around the country, the reactions by drivers were very enthusiastic, leading Beer to get sponsorship from the Harel Insurance Company – which paid for the printing of hundreds of thousands of stickers. They have been distributed around the country, even at United Hatzalah events in the often sweltering Jewish communities of Los Angeles and Miami. Beer received reports that they raised parents’ awareness and saved lives.

But Beer’s organization could not make the stickers’ presence mandatory for all vehicle licenses – which would make drivers pay extra attention to the stickers.

In a meeting with German three weeks ago, Siegel-Itzkovich presented her with stickers and her idea; and the minister said she would consider it.

On Tuesday, following the widely publicized tragedy, German said she had decided to adopt the idea of campaigns to distribute the stickers in gas stations, health fund clinics and vehicle licensing garages. In the next few days, German said, she will choose a ministry staffer who is “suited to carrying out” the idea as soon as possible.

The licensing proposal would require consultation with other ministries and writing regulations or passing a law, the minister said, but in the meantime, young lives could be saved.

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