The details of the story are nightmarish precisely because they are so familiar
to many parents. It was the first day of summer vacation. A father was
responsible for dropping his children off in the morning.
He was running
later than usual. The old routine had been disrupted. A new babysitting
arrangement had been put in place to allow mom and dad to work during the summer
months. Their six-year-old twins had been signed up for summer camp, and the
nine-month-old daughter would continue at the play group.
well with the twins. But then, according to a police investigation, the father
received a fateful telephone call that distracted him. Instead of continuing to
the playgroup to drop off his little daughter, the father returned home, parked
his jeep and switched to the motorcycle he uses every day to get to
“At 4:03 p.m., we received a call that a nine-month-old girl had
been found in a car after being forgotten there for several hours,” noted Zaki
Heller, the Magen David Adom spokesman. The ambulance team that arrived on the
scene at the Ramat Gan house pronounced the baby dead after resuscitation
According to child safety organization Beterem, between
2008 and June 2012, the news media reported 160 cases in which children were
forgotten in cars. Six cases were fatal.
These sorts of tragedies tend to
peak during summertime.
Routines are disrupted, parents attempting to
juggle work with children on vacation are more easily distracted, and the higher
temperatures make a closed car a deadly trap, particularly for younger children
who are quick to suffer from hyperthermia.
According to a study by
General Motors, a car left in the sun with an outside temperature of 35 degrees
Celsius reaches a temperature of 50 degrees after 20 minutes and 65.5 degrees
after 40 minutes.
WHAT CAN be done to prevent the next tragedy? Some have
questioned the police’s decision not to press charges against the father of the
nine-month-old. Punishment can be a way of deterring parents from forgetting
their young children in the car. However, what can be more of a deterrent than
knowing your own carelessness can cause the death of your most beloved? If
anything, a constructive type of “punishment” should be adopted, such as
enlisting parents who suffered through such a tragedy to warn other parents. In
some small way, helping to raise public awareness might also help parents cope
with the horrendous feelings of guilt they must feel.
There are also a
number of technologies that help prevent children from being left unattended in
a car. There are applications that work on smart phones, there are detectors
that identify a live person in a locked car, there are sensors that start
beeping when car keys move more than a few meters away from a booster seat with
a child in it. Many cost between NIS 200 and NIS 300, but they may not work at a
critical moment, and childless drivers may refuse to buy one. An organization
named Forget Me Not USA is lobbying the US government to require car makers to
install such a technology in every new car.
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Likud
Beytenu), who chairs the Knesset committee for children’s rights, has drafted
legislation that would obligate preschools and elementary schools to notify
parents when their children do not arrive. If the parents of the nine-month-old
had been notified, the girl’s life could have been saved.
Post’s health and science editor, Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, has been spearheading
an initiative for five years now that does not require new legislation, costs
next to nothing and is simple to execute.
distributing stickers that would, according to regulations, have to be placed on
the inside of the driver’s door that warn not to leave a young child unattended;
every time the driver enters and exits a car, he or she will see the
The Health Ministry has chosen to ignore the suggestion, but
United Hatzalah president Eli Beer ran with the idea, printing up and
distributing hundreds of thousands of stickers in numerous languages at the
expense of an insurance company.
Now, as the summer’s high temperatures
have arrived, it is time for the state to get involved. There is no time to
lose. At the very least, a campaign should be launched to help raise awareness,
using the stickers as a reminder not to forget babies in cars. The stickers can
be distributed at gas stations, health funds, carlicensing outlets and
elsewhere. Launching a campaign now could prevent the next tragedy, and the
state should be a part of it.