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As cities are reaching record high temperatures this year, so too are the number of hot car kid deaths. A recent study conducted by Kansas-based Kids and Cars reported that children dying in hot cars hit a new high in 2010 with a total of 48 deaths so far.
MSNBC reports that criminal charges are filed in about half of the cases that involve hot car kid deaths. "Experts say leaving a child in a hot car is not always a sign of negligence, but is often the result of a distracted or sleep-deprived brain, or a sudden change in routine." Unlike other child neglect and abuse cases, most hot car deaths are completely accidental in nature, and also completely avoidable.
Negligence can be defined as a failure to perform a duty. In these cases, leaving a child in a hot car has deadly effects, as well as criminal consequences for the parent. There are also rare cases in which there is enough evidence to charge a parent with negligent homicide in addition to criminal child abuse. Most children that die as a result of being left in a hot car for an extended period of time suffer from hyperthermia. Hyperthermia occurs when a body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate, causing the body's blood pressure to drop and ultimately resulting in seizures in many young children.
Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars expresses concerns that educating the public on the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car has done little to combat the deadly and all too preventable problem, "We've been doing this for over a decade, trying so hard to get the word out and educate people about this issue. It just shows that even with education, this is not getting any better. And it points to the need for some technology to prevent these most preventable deaths."