We the People Petition: Prevent Child Heat Stroke Deaths in Vehicles

Kidsandcars.org launched a petition today at whitehouse.gov titled “Prevent Child Heat Stroke Deaths in Vehicles.”  The petition, which needs 100,000 signatures, is calling on the Obama Administration to authorize the Department of Transportation (DOT) to take the following steps to prevent children from dying in hot vehicles:

  • Provide funding for the research and development of innovative technology
  • Identify, evaluate and test new technology to accelerate the most feasible and effective solutions.
  • Require the installation of new technology in all vehicles and/or child safety seats to prevent children from being left alone in vehicles.

Some of the new technology already available includes:

  • TOMY International’s First Years brand “Smart Car Seat.”  It uses iAlert technology to communicate with your smart phone.  The seat, which has a weight sensor in it, detects when the seat gets too hot and sends an alert to the parent’s smartphone.  It tells the parent the temperature inside the car and that the child is still in his/her car seat.
  • Wireless Proximity Sensors are also available.  This technology relies on a device that stays with the car seat, and a key fob that works with the device on the carseat but goes with the parent.  An alarm goes off if a child is detected in a car seat where the two devices have become separated.  One such type is the Baby Alert’s ChildMinder Soft Clip System Digital Wireless Monitor, and the other is the ChildMinder Infant-Toddler ElitePad System.  Both of which can be purchased on the internet.

Although technology should not solely be relied on, and parents should always use reminders and be diligent about checking on their children in the backseat of a car, this technology can serve as an added level of security in the fight to prevent childhood deaths due to being left unattended in hot cars.

Please take the time to link to the whitehouse.gov website here and sign the petition titled “Prevent Child Heat Stroke Deaths in Vehicles.”


Kids and Hot Cars

The heat across the South is oppressive.  Temperatures have soared into the 90s (and above), and as far as I can tell will continue to do so for the remainder of July.

Although temperatures outside are often in the 90s, temperatures inside your car climb well into the triple digits quickly.  It disheartens me to read about the Georgia father who forgot to drop his 22-month old little boy, Cooper Harris, off at daycare.  According to USA today, Cooper Harris was the 13th child in the U.S. this year, and the sixth this month, to perish after being left in a car.

I wrote about this very issue last year on my blog but feel it needs repeating.  Below are two very easy ways to help you remember your child is in the back seat of your vehicle:

  • Put a stuffed animal in the seat beside you.  When you reach your destination and see the stuffed animal you’ll know to check on your child in the backseat.
  • Put your purse, cell phone or briefcase in the backseat next to your child’s seat.  When you reach your destination you’ll have to reach into the back to get your items.
  • put a daily alarm/reminder on your calendar or phone to make sure you didn’t forget about a child in the back seat.

I highly recommend that you visit the website of the organization Kids and Cars at kidsandcars.org for valuable safety information about kids in and around cars.


Don’t be Fooled by the Sound of Drowning

Soon the temperatures in Georgia will climb well into the 90s and people will flock to the nearest pool for relief from the heat.  As an adult, it’s important to know when a child or other adult is in distress in the water or drowning and needs your help.

When we think of someone drowning, we imagine the person thrashing his or her arms about screaming for help.  While that behavior is an indication that someone might be in distress, it’s not the typical sound of drowning.  In reality, drowning is nearly silent.

So why would a drowning person be silent instead of calling for help and waving their arms?  Physiologically, they are unable to do either of those things.  We all need air to be able to speak.  When we are drowning, we are unable to get the air we need to call out for help, which is why someone won’t scream for help.  We all need the ability to voluntarily control our movements in order to wave for help.  When we are drowning, we cannot voluntarily control our arm movement and therefore can’t wave for help.

So what are the signs of drowning?  One important sign is that a drowning person doesn’t look like they’re drowning.  Instead, you might notice the following:

  • When their eyes are level with and their mouth dips below the water’s surface
  • When someone appears to be extending their arms to the side or forward as though trying to lift themselves up out of the water
  • A person is upright in the water with no signs of kicking (this is a short window as he or she can only struggle for about 20-60 seconds before going under the water)
  • Hair is over the eyes or forehead
  • A person’s eyes are glassy, unable to focus, or are closed
  • When someone’s head is tilted back with the mouth open or if a child’s head falls forward

An average of 280 children under the age of 5 drown each year.  It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children under the age of 16.  About half of the children who drown will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.

So what are some swimming safety tips?

  • As a parent, never leave a child alone in a pool, not even to go to the bathroom or answer the phone.  Make sure you are within arms length if a child us under the age of 5.  Drowning can happen in 20 to 60 seconds.
  • Do not swim alone.  Always swim with a friend.
  • Wear a life vest if you don’t know how to swim.
  • Make sure home pools and inflatable pools are safely enclosed in a locked gate.
  • Take all toys out of the pool when not in use to prevent children from reaching to get them.
  • Check pool drains and suction covers to make sure they are not missing or broken, as they can cause entrapment, which can lead to drowning.
  • Know CPR and keep a first aid kit nearby.

Remember, when people are swimming, especially children, they make noise.  If things get quiet you need to know why.  If someone appears to be quiet, unfocused or just doesn’t seem right, then ask him or her if they’re okay.  If they can easily answer yes, then they’re probably okay.  If they’re silent or can’t respond then help them immediately.   Click here to read a firsthand account of a lifeguard who saved a 9-year-old child from drowning while she was only 10 feet away from her parents, who didn’t even realize she was in distress.


Fatal Auto Accident in Macon, Georgia Involving Chevy Cobalt

There was a fatal auto accident in Macon, Georgia over the weekend.  It was a single car accident involving a vehicle that went off the road and hit some trees.  Other than the terribly sad loss of life, this particular accident caught my attention because the driver was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, which is one model recalled by General Motors.   Phillip Ramati’s report about this accident for the Macon Telegraph specifies that the accident is being investigated, so it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the cause of the wreck.

The recalls for GM are growing.  On March 28, 2014, GM recalled an additional 824,000 cars sold in the U.S.  Their most recent recall is due to the fact that the vehicles might have been repaired with the faulty ignition switch that I wrote about in my previous blog post.  According to GM, the faulty ignition switches were sold to dealers and wholesalers and used to make repairs on some vehicles.   There were about 95,000 defective switches sold, with about 90,000 used to make repairs.  The additional vehicles added to the recall include: the 2008-2010 models of the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice and G5, and the 2008-2011 Chevrolet HHR.

But the recalls don’t stop there.  On March 31, 2014 GM recalled another 1.3 million vehicles for a sudden loss of electric power steering assist, a separate issue from the faulty ignition switch.  Models affected by the power steering recall, which includes the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, can be found at www.media.gm.com.


Recall of GM Vehicles with Faulty Ignition Switch

Imagine driving down the Interstate at 70 miles per hour and your car suddenly shuts off, disabling power steering and power brakes, and preventing airbags from deploying.  That’s exactly what can happen if you’re driving one of the 1.6 million cars that have recently been recalled by General Motors.

The problem that can create this deadly situation is a “faulty ignition switch.”   If your key ring is too heavy, or if your keys are bumped while in the ignition, the ignition can switch from the “on” position to the “accessory” or “off” position, causing the car to stall, disabling electrical components and airbags.

According to GM, the faulty switch is linked to at least 31 crashes and 12 deaths; however, this number may be inaccurate.   According to a letter from the Center for Auto Safety to the N.H.T.S.A., (a copy of which can be read at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/business/gm-reveals-it-was-told-of-ignition-defect-in-01.html?_r=0), an examination of data shows as many as 303 deaths could be linked to the faulty ignition switches in the recalled cars.

What is particularly disturbing is the fact that it appears from news reports that GM knew about the faulty switch as early as 2001, but did not issue a recall until 2014.  They have now offered to fix the defect or pay $500 to those who want to purchase a 2013 or 2014 GM car.  Unfortunately, the fix, which only costs between $2-$5, comes a little too late for many people who have been injured or lost their lives as a result of the defect.

One such loss occurred four years ago, a 29-year old nurse in Georgia was killed when her Chevrolet Cobalt crashed.  It was found that the engine was not running and the switch was in the “accessory” position. To see more about this tragic loss and an explanation of how the ignition can slip into the off position, go to  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/another-fatal-crash-may-be-linked-to-gm-ignition-switch-defect/.

All of the cars recalled thus far for this particular defect are 7 years old or older, which could present a problem notifying current owners, since many of the cars are probably now owned by second or third parties who may be difficult to locate.

So what should you do if you own one of the recalled vehicles?

GM will fix the problem free of charge, but the fix won’t be available until April 7th.; Therefore, owners should immediately separate their vehicle key from their key fob, any other keys or a key ring and use only your car key while driving.  In addition, you should be careful not to accidentally bump the key while driving.  If you are uncomfortable driving your car, GM dealers are supposed to provide rentals free of charge until the fix is available.  Owners, however, are required to contact the dealer about any loaners.

Following is a list of recalled GM cars affected by the Faulty Ignition Switch:

  • 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet Colbalt and Pontiac G5
  • 2003 – 2007 Saturn Ion
  • 2006 – 2007 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2006 – 2007 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2007 Saturn Sky