(UNDATED) – On Saturday, a mother left her three children alone in her SUV in Leland, Miss. to go inside a convenience store. While inside, the SUV was somehow set into motion and rolled into a flooded creek. One of the children was rescued, but the other two drowned inside the SUV.
Tragedies like this tend to be labeled as ‘freak accidents’ leaving others to believe that this would never happen to them. And with only 19 states having specific laws making it illegal to leave children alone in vehicles, some parents mistakenly believe it is safe to do so.
KidsAndCars.org has documented over 1,100 children that lost their lives because they were unattended inside a vehicle from 2001-2018. It is important to note that this is only the tip of the iceberg due to the lack of reporting requirements for these type of fatalities. The actual number of deaths is much higher.
Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org said, “First and foremost, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family of the children. We all want to keep our children safe and secure and help them live to their full potential. Yet, children are being unnecessarily killed because they have been left alone in a vehicle. It is my hope that parents everywhere will learn from this excruciating tragedy and never leave their children alone in a vehicle.”
According to KidsAndCars.org, hundreds of children are injured or killed every year after accidentally knocking a vehicle into motion. Last year, a record 51 children died on hot cars. Also last year, nearly 200 children survived being left inside vehicles that were stolen. Power windows have strangled or maimed thousands of children. Seat belt strangulation, carbon monoxide poisoning, falls, vehicle fire and choking are all things that can happen when a child is alone in a vehicle.
Safety tips for parents and caregivers:
- Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child is in distress, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
- Use drive-thru services when available (restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc.) and pay for gas at the pump. If you order take-out, you can ask them to bring the food out to your car.
- Never leave a vehicle unattended with the engine running under any circumstances.
- Do not put children or adults inside a vehicle with the engine running while clearing snow or ice off the vehicle. Always clear the tailpipe first to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children and keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, child care providers and neighbors to do the same.
- Always set your emergency brake when your vehicle is parked.
- In any state, a person can face child endangerment or neglect charges for leaving a child alone in a vehicle, even if the state does not have a law specifically making it illegal to leave a child alone in a vehicle.
State laws making it illegal to leave a child alone in a vehicle click here.
State laws allowing citizens to rescue children/pets from locked vehicles click here.
How to test if your vehicle can be shifted into gear without your foot on the brake instructions, click here.
More on Power Windows, click here.
To learn more about the many dangers children face in or around vehicles please visit KidsAndCars.org’s website at: http://www.KidsAndCars.org.
KidsAndCars.org is a national nonprofit dedicated to saving the lives of young children and pets in and around vehicles. The organization is devoted to eliminating vehicle-related risks that were previously unrecognized through data collection, research and analysis, public education and awareness programs, policy change, product redesign and supporting families to channel their grief into positive change. These everyday incidents include being run over, hot car deaths, carbon monoxide poisoning, car theft with children/animals inside, falls, knocking cars into gear,a drowning inside vehicle, underage drivers, power window strangulation, trunk entrapment, etc.