TSD Memphis

Sat04192014

News

Are the kids out of the car?

Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich, Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Nancy Williams and area law enforcement are reminding citizens to exercise caution with children in automobiles this summer. Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich, Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Nancy Williams and area law enforcement are reminding citizens to exercise caution with children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities in automobiles this summer.

“There are few greater tragedies than the death of a child,” said Weirich. “Those deaths are particularly disturbing when they are completely avoidable – as is the case when children are left in a car in the Memphis sun. There is never a good reason to leave a child in a car. When the temperature rises, it is criminal and deadly.”

Weirich said a simple question serves as a prevention tool. “Ask yourself, your friends, your co-workers: ‘Are the kids out of the car?’”

If a child sustains bodily injury as a result of being left in a vehicle, the responsible adult could face criminal charges of child abuse, child neglect or endangerment, according to state law.

Here are some consequences to consider:

If the child suffers serious bodily injury, then the adult could face charges of aggravated child abuse and/or aggravated child neglect or endangerment.

If the child is under eight years of age, or if the victim suffers from physical or mental disability, the responsible adult could face Class A Felony charges.

If the child, or victim, dies as a result of being left inside a vehicle, the responsible adult could also face homicide charges.

State law makes it a violation for an adult responsible for a child under the age of seven to leave that child unattended in a vehicle on public property or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park, or any apartment house complex, or any other premises that is generally frequented by the public at large without being supervised in the motor vehicle by a person who is at least 13 years of age, if the vehicle’s engine is running. This violation is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to eleven months, twenty-nine days imprisonment or a $200 fine.

According to the Department of Geoscience at San Francisco State University, over 500 children in the United States have died from vehicular hyperthermia, (dying inside hot automobiles), since 1998. More than half, (51 percent ) of these deaths were due to the child victims being accidentally left, or forgotten, inside the vehicle. More than half were children under the age of two. Of the total deaths, 30 percent resulted from the child playing inside an unattended vehicle, and 17 percent were determined to have been intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult.

This year, statistics compiled by San Francisco State University show that eight children have died nationwide due to vehicular hyperthermia. Heat stroke is noted as the cause of death in each case. The cases of non-fatal, heat illness from vehicular hyperthermia are estimated to be in the hundreds annually.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (McLaren, Null & James, 2005), has found that the temperature inside a vehicle rises 80 percent, (up to a 49 degree increase), within the first 30 minutes, even on the coolest of summer days, and cracking the windows doesn’t decrease the rate of temperature increase.

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