Hot cars can kill

The Compass - - OPINION - Brodie Thomas is the edi­tor of The Gulf News in Port aux basques. He can be reached at edi­tor@gulfnews.ca.

It’s sum­mer­time. And with sum­mer­time comes heat.

Un­for­tu­nately, with the heat comes news sto­ries about chil­dren left in hot cars.

There were two high-pro­file sto­ries in Canada last week – one in Al­berta and an­other in On­tario. They’re the sort of sto­ries that elicit talk and ques­tions around the wa­ter cooler. How could any­one leave their child in a hot car, even for a minute?

A 2009 fea­ture story in the Wash­ing­ton Post by Gene Wein­garten called Fa­tal Dis­trac­tion looks at the roots of this prob­lem. The story is worth seek­ing out on­line and read­ing, al­though it is not for the squea­mish or faint of heart.

The story notes that it al­most never hap­pened in Amer­ica be­fore the 1990s. That was when rules around child seats and airbags started to come into ef­fect. Specif­i­cally, it was when laws started dic­tat­ing that chil­dren needed to be placed in the back seat - of­ten in rear-fac­ing safety seats.

In the vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese deaths, there is no illintent or will­ful ne­glect. A par­ent sim­ply for­gets to drop off a child off at day­care or the babysit­ter’s one morn­ing. It’s not unimag­in­able. Com­bine a sleep­ing child with a rear-fac­ing seat with a mix-up in the usual rou­tine. It be­comes a recipe for disas­ter.

Some­times when th­ese cases come out in the news, it’s a clear case of ne­glect. But in some­times too, it’s just a mys­tery.

In the case of the Ed­mon­ton three-year-old who died last week, her mother said she had no idea how the child got in the car, ac­cord­ing to a CBC story. Three­year-olds get into things they shouldn’t some­times.

We are quick to judge when we hear th­ese sto­ries, but some­times the true de­tails don’t come out on the six o’clock news. Some­times the true de­tails never come out at all. Grief-stricken par­ents are left to live with their mis­take the rest of their lives.

Don’t as­sume it couldn’t hap­pen to you. Don’t as­sume it can’t hap­pen here in our cooler cli­mate. As Wein­garten pointed out in his story – it’s dis­trac­tion that kills.

Make a point of check­ing the back seat each time you get out.

Keep your car doors locked when you’re not in the ve­hi­cle. It could pre­vent an older child from let­ting a younger child in the car.

All we can do is guard against such fa­tal mis­takes. Hope­fully a slightly slower pace of life in th­ese parts means peo­ple here aren’t as eas­ily driven to dis­trac­tion.

How could any­one leave their child in a hot car, even for a minute?

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