As many people know, this summer has brought almost every region of the United States record high temperatures, humidity, and dangerous heat advisories. Staying cool during these times is critical, as failing to do so can result in serious injury and damage to one’s health. A Chicago auto accident attorney at our firm was surprised to read a report about a woman who recently left her child in her car while the temperature was ninety degrees outside. Joliet.patch.com reports that the ten-year-old girl was left unattended in the parked car outside of Jewel on North Larkin Avenue while the driver went grocery shopping. Joliet police say that an officer checking to make sure the fire lanes in front of the store were clear spotted the car illegally parked in the fire lane. When the officer looked closer, he saw that the car was running and the little girl was inside. When he spoke with the girl, she told him she had been waiting there for a long time.
The report states that the 23 year-old driver was later ticketed for leaving the girl in the vehicle while she went shopping. According to police, this had been the sixth time last week that someone had been charged with leaving a child, dog, or a combination of both in a car, sometimes with temperatures higher than ninety degrees with the car windows closed.
Our Illinois auto accident attorneys and many others understand that leaving children unattended in or around vehicles is a serious problem, especially during the summertime. According to the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Safe Kids USA, children left unattended in hot cars, trucks, vans, and SUV’s account for 24% of fatalities. More than one thousand cases involving injury or death have been documented so far, most being caused by hyperthermia (heat stroke). The average number of U.S child hyperthermia fatalities per year since 1998 is 38, creating a total of 539 cases up until 2012. These fatalities occur under the circumstances of either a caregiving simply “forgetting” their child in their car, a child being left to play in an unattended vehicle, or a child intentionally being left in a vehicle. The ages of these children ranges from 5 days to 14 years old, but more than half of fatalities are children under 2 years of age. Only eighteen states have laws prohibiting leaving a child unattended in a vehicle; Illinois is thankfully one of them.
What many parents, caregivers, babysitters, or even bus drivers do not understand is how hot the inside temperature of a vehicle can actually get. Keep in mind that a car is basically a metal box and can react to heat similar to the way an oven would. If it is 90 degrees outside, the temperature inside of the car can reach 125 degrees just after 20 minutes, and up to 145 degrees after 40 minutes, even if a window is cracked open in the car. This is especially true if the car is parked in direct sunlight. It only takes a matter of minutes to suffer damage to the body or die in these types of temperatures. A trauma surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center and president of the National Safe Kids USA Campaign states, “Heat rapidly overwhelms the body’s ability to regulate temperature. In a closed environment, the body can go into shock and circulation to vital organs will begin to fail.” For children, this process happens even faster, as small children and infants are more sensitive to extreme heat. Children’s temperature regulating system is not as developed as an adult’s; their body temperatures can warm at a rate three to five times faster that an adult’s. Records have shows that children have died from heatstroke in a vehicle with outside temperatures as low as 57 degrees F, also proving that vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly.
Therefore, our Chicago accident lawyers want to urge you to refrain from leaving your child unattended in a motor vehicle, even with the windows open or air conditioning running. Not only is heat stroke a possible threat during the summer time, but children may suffer injury from choking, accidently operating the vehicle, or being backed into by another car on the road. It is essential that everyone takes the appropriate steps to keep children safe this summer.
Our Chicago personal injury lawyers at Levin & Perconti represent people who have been seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents and are willing to assist you if you or someone you know has suffered personal injury, medical expenses, or property damage as a result of a negligent motorist. Please contact us to find out if legal recourse may be available to you.