An inexpensive plan to save babies locked in cars

Reporter's Notebook: A colorful sticker would be affixed to the inside of the driver’s side door reminding not to leave babies in vehicles.

child safety sticker 311 (photo credit: United Hatzalah)
child safety sticker 311
(photo credit: United Hatzalah)
For a health reporter, writing about tragedies in which helpless babies and toddlers die or are seriously injured when left in broiling, locked vehicles is a heartbreaking assignment.
Five years ago, after reporting a spate of such incidents, I pondered whether such deaths and injuries could be prevented.
I came up with an inexpensive plan that could be implemented immediately at negligible expense, requiring legislation that no vested interests would object to.
A colorful sticker, with glue strong enough not to peel off or fade in the heat, would be affixed to the inside of the driver’s- side door. The sticker would state something like this: “Have you forgotten a child in this vehicle? A child’s life is more precious than your car. Prevent deaths and injuries.”
An empty space on the sticker would optionally be reserved for affixing a photo of one’s own children. The adult would see the message every time he entered or left the vehicle. It would stick in his mind – not be ignored like ministry warnings on the bottom of cigarette packs by smokers who are hostile to restrictions on their habits; no adult would want intentionally to kill or maim young children by leaving them in a hot vehicle.
The law would bar vehicle licenses from being issued or renewed unless the authorized tester found the sticker – issued in the language of choice – affixed in the proper place and in good condition.
In my first one-on-one meeting with then-health minister Ya’acov Ben-Yizri, I presented the idea but hit a solid wall. I tried again two-and-a-half years ago in my first interview with Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, a United Torah Judaism MK and Ger hassid who has numerous children and who seemed open to new ideas. To my surprise, Litzman made no commitment and didn’t even show interest.
“It wouldn’t work,” he said, with no explanation.
The next day, I called Eli Beer, a successful American-born businessman who – shocked by the sight of terror victims during the second intifada – established United Hatzalah, with trained medic volunteers rushing to save lives of wounded, sick and injured. The medics on ambucycles and in ambulances had encountered numerous incidents in which babies and toddlers were abandoned in locked vehicles.
Beer called back a few hours later, saying he enthusiastically accepted the idea – and the challenge. While he could not force the government to initiate legislation for mandatory stickers, he was going to print up stickers in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian at his expense. Within a week, Beer informed me that 10,000 were ready and would be distributed to all who wanted them.
On Tuesday morning, before Litzman’s press conference on BETEREM’s report to fight child accidents, Beer told me he had gotten the Harel Insurance company to donate money to produce many more stickers in exchange for printing its logo.
After recently describing my idea in speeches to United Hatzalah branches in Miami, Los Angeles and Australia – all hot places – he was told that they were adopting the sticker idea as well.
Beer, who next week will be one of a half-dozen organization heads to receive the President’s Volunteer Prize, said that while he had no statistics, he was sure that the sticker has successfully reminded drivers not to leave children inside. He is ready to mail free stickers in more languages – Yiddish and Amharic – to anyone who sends a stamped, self-addressed envelop marking the desired language to United Hatzalah, P.O.B 36233, Jerusalem 91361.
ver a salad break at the "Healthy Cities" conference at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, I described my idea in 30 seconds to a former head of public health services at the ministry. "How did you think of it? It's brilliant. Go for it!" he said. At the press conference, Litzman began by saying that it was almost impossible to bring down the toll of child accidents. “I would give a prize to anyone who has a good idea that could save lives,” he said.
When I raised my hand, I said I had an idea that he had not implemented, but that United Hatzalah president Eli Beer had immediately produced the stickers, without being able to make them mandatory.
“It won’t work,” Litzman reiterated without giving evidence to back it up. “Nobody will notice them.”
Wolfson Medical Center director Dr. Yitzhak Berlovich asked for “medical research that would show that the sticker idea would prevent deaths.”
Ministry deputy director-general for information Yair Amikam said that making suggestions was out of place at a press conference.
“Saving a life is like saving a whole world,” a slogan the deputy health minister has quoted at many events, echoed in my ears as I left his office in frustration.