A toddler’s death in Cobb County last week has brought attention again to the issue of children being left unattended in hot cars.
The boy’s death was initially attributed to heat stroke, though police say the investigation is ongoing and “much has changed about the circumstances leading up to the death of this 22-month-old since it was first reported,” according to media reports.
The father told investigators he forgot to drop off the child at a day care center and went to work, leaving the boy strapped into a car seat all day. If that is confirmed, he would be the eighth child in Georgia since 2010 to die of heat stroke in a car.
“Eight kids dead in four years in Georgia because they were left in hot cars — that’s eight too many,” said Effingham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.
As the temperature consistently rises above 90 degrees and the heat index higher than 100 in the South Georgia summer, the ECSO is reminding that no length of time is safe for a child or pet to be left alone in a car.
The Sheriff’s Office is reiterating the “Look Again” campaign launched last month by Gov. Nathan Deal and other state leaders. Parents and child care providers are urged to check more than once that they’re not leaving a child unattended in a hot car.
“If we can save one kid’s life, then we definitely feel like we’ve succeeded,” Ehsanipoor said. “A kid or a pet can pass away in a car in a matter of minutes.”
Nationwide statistics of children who died of heat stroke indicate some were intentionally left in cars by an adult. However, the majority were reportedly “forgotten” by a caregiver — as implausible as that may sound.
“Nobody thinks it could really happen to them,” Ehsanipoor said. “I think most of us are of that mindset, ‘How could I leave a child or a pet in my car?’ But in reality, it does happen.”
For an added safety measure, products are available on the market to remind drivers that a child is in the car. As an example, Ehsanipoor demonstrated one called Bee-Alert.
Bee-Alert, sold online by the manufacturer for $14.95, is a light-activated audio device. When the driver’s door is opened and light hits the device, it emits a verbal reminder to check the rear seat for a child or pet.
The recorded voice states, “Child alert, child alert, check car seat, check car seat,” and then repeats the message.
“It’s a simple device that could save a life potentially,” Ehsanipoor said. “We’re not telling everybody to go out and buy these things. We’re just letting the public know that there are products out there, if you just want to be very sure.”
The ECSO receives “about a dozen to two dozen calls a summer” about children in hot cars, according to Ehsanipoor. The majority, though, are from people who accidentally locked their keys in the car.
Ehsanipoor emphasized, “That’s not against the law.” He encourages people not to hesitate to call for help if that happens.
“You will not get in trouble if you accidentally lock your keys in your car and your child or your pet is in the car,” he said. “We will come to you, and we will do what we need to do to get your child or your pet out of the car.”
Another factor in some heat stroke deaths is children playing in unattended vehicles. That has become more common as an increasing number of people use keyless remotes to lock and unlock their cars.
“How many times do we get out of our car, and as we’re walking inside, not looking behind us, we click our lock button?” Ehsanipoor said. “In that small amount of time, a child can get in your car. You hit the lock button and you don’t even know a child is locked in that car.”