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Hot cars pose immediate danger to children
Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County offers car seat safety class
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Senior Trooper David Snyder with Georgia State Patrol teaches a car seat safety class Friday at the Hall County Health Department, offered in partnership with Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County. - photo by Kristen Oliver

Remembering Infants in the Backseat

Develop a routine of opening the back door every time you park to check that no one has been left behind.

Put something in the back seat to remind you to open the back door every time you park — for example, a cell phone, employee badge, handbag, etc.

Keep a stuffed animal in the baby’s car seat. Place it in the front seat when the baby is in the back seat.

Ask the babysitter or child care provider to call you if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.

KidsandCars.org.

Twenty-six children are dead this year from being left in hot cars.

Experts say it’s a mistake that could happen to anyone. Parents are stressed and sleep deprived and, sometimes, they forget the sleeping child in the back seat.

But just a few minutes in a hot car are enough to kill an infant, and record-high deaths this year have led to increased awareness.

“Always remember to check the back seat,” said Senior Trooper David Snyder with Georgia State Patrol. “Check and make sure you haven’t left your child. It’s usually someone who’s gotten out of a routine — maybe they’re doing something different, maybe they normally have someone else drive the child.”

This month in Carrolton, 15-month-old twins Ariel North and Alaynah North died after being left in a hot car outside their home.

Their 24-year-old father Asa North was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Temperatures that day were in the 90s, and experts say it would have taken just a few minutes for the heat inside the car to become unbearable, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native Justin Ross Harris faces charges including murder in the 2014 death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in Marietta.

Cooper died after spending seven hours in a car on a hot June day. Jury selection for the case is set to begin Sept. 12.

The North twins were the 25th and 26th children to die this year in hot vehicles, more than double the number by this point last summer, according to the organization KidsAndCars.org.

KidsandCars.org founder Janette Fennell started the organization after she and her husband Greig were kidnapped at gunpoint in 1995. Their 9-month-old son Alexander was removed from the car by the carjackers, who forced the Fennells into the trunk of their own car, robbed them, and left them on an abandoned road.

While Alexander and his parents were unharmed, Janette Fennell dedicated her career from there on to increasing awareness of child safety. KidsandCars.org has a “Look Before You Lock” campaign to help parents remember their children in the backseat of the car.

“Facts show new parents suffer from exhaustion due to lack of sleep, hormone changes, stress and changes in their normal routine,” the campaign website states. “Any one of these changes can cause your memory to fail at a time you least expect it. Even the best of parents and caregivers can overlook a sleeping baby in a car, and the end result can be injury or even death.”

The organization has four tips for parents to remember their child in the back seat:

Develop a routine of opening the back door every time you park to check that no one has been left behind.

Put something in the back seat to remind you to open the back door every time you park — for example, a cellphone, employee badge, handbag, etc.

Keep a stuffed animal in the baby’s car seat. Place it in the front seat when the baby is in the back seat.

Ask the babysitter or child care provider to call you if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.

Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County has a car seat safety class offered in collaboration between Safe Kids, the Hall County Health Department and law enforcement.

The class meets monthly in the fall, and Snyder spoke at the August class about proper car seat safety and legal requirements.

“I also encourage people if they do see a child in a car, go ahead and take action,” Snyder said. “Call the authorities. We certainly don’t want them staying in the car. It gets hot so quickly, it would definitely be an emergency situation if you saw a child in a hot car.”

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