At least eight children have died this spring, mostly under the age of 2, because they have been left or trapped inside hot cars. This news, released by the advocacy group KidsAndCars.org, is a renewed wake-up call for parents and caregivers to be mindful not to leave young children unattended in or near cars on hot days. More from NBC News:
That includes seven deaths in May alone, nearly double the typical number of heatstroke deaths during the month involving kids forgotten or neglected in vehicles, according to the advocacy group KidsAndCars.org. It provides a devastating reminder of the consequences of distraction and stress.
“It has everything to do with our brains letting us down at the worst possible moment,” said Janette Fennell, president and founder of the group that works to raise awareness about the dangers of hot cars.
One child has died so far in June, a 2-year-old Escambia, Fla. boy, Hezekiah Brooks, who went missing Sunday on a 92-degree day and was found four hours later on the floorboards of his grandfather’s car with the windows rolled up, police said.
Most deaths occurred when otherwise well-meaning parents or caregivers failed to notice that kids were still in the cars.
The May deaths occurred in four states over about two weeks, starting with the May 10 accident involving a 5-month-old girl who was left in a car at Riverside High School in El Paso, Texas. Her mother, Wakesha Ives, 37, is a teacher at the school, according to news reports. El Paso law enforcement officials told NBC News they’re still investigating the case.
To date, 567 children have died after being left in cars in the U.S. since 1998, according to figures from the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, which tracks reports.
3.4 million cars around the world, including those made by popular brands Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda, are being recalled because of faulty airbags, according to Reuters. The airbags, made by the Japanese company Takata, are at risk of catching fire or injuring passengers.
Toyota says it’s recalling approximately 170,000 cars in the United States, including certain Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia, and Tundra, and Lexus SC 430 models manufactured from 2001-2003. “More precise vehicle information is being developed, but about 510,000 vehicles may have to be inspected to locate the suspect inflators,” according to the Toyota USA newsroom.
Honda is recalling “approximately 426,000 model-year 2001-2003 Civic vehicles, approximately 43,000 CR-V vehicles from the 2002-2003 model years and approximately 92,000 model-year 2002 Odyssey vehicles in the United States.”
While Toyota and Honda have both listed press releases on their respective websites, Nissan and Mazda have yet to post information about the recall.
A new study has found that most American children are either improperly restrained in child car seats, or they are allowed to sit in the front seat, in defiance of government car safety recommendations. MSNBC.com has more:
The difficulty people have in adhering to car safety regulations may show how dramatically they’ve changed in recent years, said the study’s author, Dr. Michelle Macy, of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “For parents, it’s not anything they would have done as kids,” she said.
In the U.S., car crashes are the leading cause of death for children over age 3, however, and more than 140,000 children go to emergency rooms each year as a result of accidents. Properly seating a child in a car seat or booster seat, and in the back seat, reduces the risk of injury or death, but many parents don’t follow the guidelines, the researchers said.
Three types of devices designed to alert parents if they have left their babies strapped into car seats are not reliable, a new government report has found. The Washington Post reports on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s findings:
The performance of the devices — one that relies on a chest buckle sensor and two that use seat pads — is too inconsistent, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
“These sense the presence of a child; they just don’t do it reliably enough,” said Kristy B. Arbogast, a researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who tested the devices for the federal agency.
“While these devices are very well intended and we do appreciate the manufacturers and inventors, we have found a number of limitations in these devices,” NHTSA Administrator David L. Strickland said. “We don’t think they can be used as the only countermeasure to make sure that you don’t forget your child behind in a car.”
The three devices are the Suddenly Safe Pressure Pad, the ChildMinder Smart Clip System and the ChildMinder Smart Pad. There was no immediate response from the three manufacturers.
The NHTSA report said that, in some cases, spilled liquids caused malfunctions, cellphone use interfered with device signals, devices turned off and on during travel and an improperly positioned child caused seat pads to malfunction.
“In sum, the devices require considerable effort from the parent/caregiver to ensure smooth operation,” the report said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced it is changing the rules regarding how child car seats are attached to cars, affecting mostly older toddlers and children over age 3. The system known as LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), which has become standard in many cars and which makes car seats easier to install, cannot be guaranteed to be safe if the car seat and child’s combined weight exceeds 65 pounds. USA Today has more:
Joseph Colella, one of five child-safety advocates who petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to change the rule, says the anchor requirements are based on old child seats and outdated recommendations on how long kids should be in child seats.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sought the change in the rule because limits weren’t factoring in how much seats weigh. Colella says carmakers aren’t able to guarantee the safety of heavier kids given the strength of LATCH anchors. The alliance was not available for comment.
The advocates say the minimum strength requirements should be increased.
LATCH use and awareness are already low. A study last summer by the advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide found child-seat checkpoint technicians were using the lower anchors to attach seats only about 30% of the time. And Safe Kids found just 30% of parents use the top tether straps, which prevent head injuries in crashes.
“Disconnecting tethers when their use is needed … could lead to a tragedy,” says Stephanie Tombrello of advocacy group SafetyBeltSafe, one of the petitioners.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children use car seats until age 8 has apparently led to manufacturers making different, sometimes heavier seats.