By Jennifer Simmons
Special to GUIDON
Summer is here. Children are out of school. Families are taking vacations and thoughts are focused on spending that quality time together.
While preparing for those summertime activities, oftentimes our routines typically change. We welcome the changes as we “get away” from the structured normal schedules of daily life; however, it is important to remember that some changes in routine could also lead to life-threatening and sometimes tragic heat-related events.
According to the website KidsandCars.org, there are on average 37 vehicular heatstroke deaths among children per year. From 1990 until 2017, there have been 836 fatalities due to vehicular heatstroke with the majority of children being ages 3 and younger. One might assume this heartbreak could never personally happen, but it could depending on the circumstances.
Heightening the awareness of the common contributing factors in heat-related deaths may help prevent the loss of another child. These factors include a change in daily routine, fatigue, and memory lapses.
For instance, how many times have you arrived at work and thought “how did I get here?” Memory expert David Diamond, Ph.D., a scientist at the Veteran’s Hospital in Tampa, said that each of us has dueling memory systems where our brain goes on autopilot when completing routine tasks of habit.
Diamond explained that the first memory system is the primitive part of the brain, which is tied directly to habits such as driving to and from work. The second dueling memory system is responsible for carrying out short-term plans, such as picking up your dry cleaning. According to Diamond, the primitive “habit system” is much more powerful; he goes on to say, “It’s very difficult to keep in your mind that you want to override your habit system, and it can take over almost immediately.”
The website KidsandCars.org provides excellent suggestions to prevent these types of tragedies. One of their campaign slogans is, “Look Before You Lock.”
Furthermore, the website offers the following three recommendations for safety:
— First, always opening the back door of your vehicle to check the back seat before locking and leaving your car;
— Second, put something you need, such as your work ID, in the back seat so you have to open your back door and retrieve the item;
— Finally, once you have placed your child in their car seat, place a stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual cue to remind you that your child is there.
Army Community Service wants to help you have a safe and memorable summer with your family. Remember to take steps to prevent a child vehicular heatstroke.
Please share these important tips with each person you know. By doing so, you can save the life of a child.
For more information, you may visit www.Kidsincars.org or contact a Family Advocacy Program Specialist from Army Community Service at 573.596.4268.
(Editor’s note: Simmons is a Family Advocacy Program Specialist.)