Two infants die after being forgotten in locked cars, we need a solution

Figures published by B’Terem (Safe Kids Israel), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting child safety, report 30 fatal cases of children being left in vehicles between 2008 and 2018.

THE AMBULANCE WILL be operated by a crew of female volunteer EMTs and paramedics and will respond to any type of medical emergency. (photo credit: Courtesy)
THE AMBULANCE WILL be operated by a crew of female volunteer EMTs and paramedics and will respond to any type of medical emergency.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two utterly preventable tragedies occurred in Israel last week. In separate incidents, two infants – one Jewish and one Arab – died after having been forgotten in locked cars. Apart from the tragic loss of life, such deaths pull families apart and haunt the parents, grandparents and siblings forever.
Such deaths happen every year, not only in Israel but around the world, and are more common in the hot summer months. In Israel, according to figures published in this paper last year, on average there are some 100 cases each month in which a child is locked in a hot car. That is more than three a day. Each case is potentially lethal. Just yesterday, a child was fortunately rescued from a locked vehicle before it was too late.
Figures published by B’Terem (Safe Kids Israel), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting child safety, report 30 fatal cases of children being left in vehicles between 2008 and 2018.
B’Terem’s website carries the message: “If you think that this cannot happen to you, think again.”
We owe it to all our children to internalize that message.
Vehicles should be required to be fitted with one of the many systems that alert the driver a passenger is still in the vehicle before they turn off the engine and lock the doors. Many of these devices are simple and effective, and do not cost much money to install. The cost should not be a factor when weighed against the possible loss of precious life.
Former Jerusalem Post health reporter Judy Siegel worked on a campaign a few years ago to raise awareness of this issue. As a result, in a campaign funded by United Hatzalah, stickers (in different languages) were handed out to drivers across the country to serve as a reminder for parents to make sure that their children are not forgotten.
Other suggestions include placing your bag, phone or similar important object on the back seat next to the young passenger so that you automatically look and notice even a quiet, sleeping child; giving yourself an automatic reminder on your phone to check where the child is in the morning/afternoon soon after the drop-off/collection time; having one parent message the other that they have dropped off the young child and avoiding long telephone calls while driving and parking (which is good even without a child passenger), as it is distracting.
Never be tempted to leave a child even briefly locked in the car. As part of a B’Terem public awareness campaign a few years ago, celebrity chef Haim Cohen was seen cooking a pizza inside a car – the message was brutal but effective: a child locked in a vehicle slowly, agonizingly, is cooked to death.
B’Terem warns that the temperature in a locked car can reach 70°C. Even on cooler days, it does not take long for a parked car to reach dangerously high temperatures – and that includes when the window is slightly open – the organization notes.
Most cases, according to the organization, occur when parents act on “auto-pilot” – carrying on with a daily routine and forgetting the child in the process.
There has been much discussion in the past on the correct criminal punishment for those responsible for car deaths of children – be it parents or school bus drivers. Have the parents been punished enough by losing their child? Hasn’t the family suffered enough without losing a parent for a prison sentence?
Ultimately, of course, this is for the judges to decide in individual cases. But we would like to see part of the process be a compulsory requirement for the person convicted of criminal negligence/manslaughter – at some point after they’ve picked up the pieces of their shattered lives – tell their story to the public as a warning, so parents of kindergarten and young school-age children can learn from their mistakes and tragedies.
There must be at least as much acknowledgment of the dangers – and how to prevent them – of children being left in cars as there is of other road-related accidents. And we must all keep our eyes open and stay alert to avoid further tragedies.