Stickers for life

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.

Shattered glass, baby car seat (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
Shattered glass, baby car seat
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
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.
Everything went 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 work.
“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 attempts failed.
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.
The Jerusalem 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.
Siegel-Itzkovich recommends 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 reminder.
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.