Editorial: Look before you lock

Summer is my favorite time of the year. I grew up in southwest Kansas where we usually experienced a dry heat, so it was different when I moved up here and I had to get used to the humidity. Despite the humidity in northeast Kansas, I still look forward to summertime. To me, summer means gardening, baseball, vacations, swimming, grilling and a lot of family time.

For some families, summer means busy schedules for everyone – kids and parents alike. But unfortunately for some families, these schedules that are meant to be fun can and have turned tragic in an instant.

So far this year, I have already read multiple news stories of children dying because they have been left in hot vehicles – either intentionally or unintentionally. Most of the stories state that the children were left unintentionally, but some were intentional. The unintentional ones were caused by the parent forgetting to drop the child off at daycare, which probably resulted from the parents being distracted and thinking about their busy summer schedules.

According to a AAA press release about children being left in hot vehicles, as of June 15 this year, 12 kids have died due to heatstroke resulting from being left in hot vehicles. I feel like this number is already pretty high for it only being the middle of June, and no one wants to see that number increase.

In order to try and prevent further deaths resulting from leaving children in hot vehicles, members of the U.S. Congress have introduced a new bill – Hot Cars Act of 2017 – which would require automakers to equip their vehicles with an alert system designed to warn the driver if a child is left in the back seat.

I have a newer vehicle, and although it does not prompt me to look in the back seat every time I turn my vehicle off, I have seen it prompt me every now and then. I personally believe this Act would save a lot of lives and hope it is made a law. With everything that vehicles can do these days, I think prompting drivers to look in the backseat would be something very easy for automakers to implement.

But for many people who do not have newer vehicles or do not plan to get a newer vehicle, there are a few tips AAA gave to ensure children do not get left in the vehicle. Tips include setting reminders to go off on your smart phone to make sure you have dropped your children off where they belong, putting a sticky note on your steering wheel or putting your purse or laptop bag in the backseat.

One tip they gave was very similar to something I saw online a few weeks ago – the left-shoe reminder. The left-shoe reminder is when you take your left shoe off and place it in the backseat along with your child, because when you go to get out of the vehicle, you won’t start walking if you are missing a shoe, thus remembering that your child is back there.

This not only applies to children but pets as well. Be sure to check that everyone is out of the car before you lock it, even if you feel like it is not very hot outside. According to AAA, it only takes 10 minutes for a car’s temperature to rise over 20 degrees, even if it isn’t an unseasonably warm day.

Unfortunately, this type of incident can happen to anyone — even though some believe it will never happen to them. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Hopefully, the Hot Cars Act of 2017 gets passed and becomes law, but until then I hope these few tips will help everyone, especially those with busy schedules, to remember our most vulnerable passengers.

Heather Stewart280 Posts

Heather Stewart is a reporter for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. She specializes in court and sports reporting, as well as photography. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.


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