Summer is approaching, and record high temperatures are expected. The increased heat brings an added danger for children that yesterday cost the life of a one-year-old Miami boy, Bryan Miguel Osceola. His mother, Catalina Marista Bruno, left him unattended in the backseat of her Chevy under Miami's scorching sun.
According to the Miami Herald, when the boy was finally discovered, he had a body temperature of 109 degrees and had literally baked to death. Ms. Bruno has been previously charged in a separate incident with driving under the influence and child endangerment.
It is unknown whether or not drugs or alcohol were involved in Bryan's being left alone in her car, but as a children's accident lawyer in South Florida, I believe these types of tragedies can be prevented. Foremost, I also want to share my condolences with Bryan's family.
Sadly, children die or are severely injured by being left alone in cars more frequently than one would imagine. Every year nearly 40 children die from heat strokes after being abandoned in hot cars and trucks in the United States. And often those that survive are left with debilitating life-long health issues.
Before researching this issue, as both a parent and Broward children's injury attorney, I imagined that all of these cases must have happened when a caregiver simply was distracted and forgot that the child was left behind. But I was surprised to learn that nearly one out of every three cases involved a parent intentionally leaving the child in the car. Sometimes, the parent did not want to wake a sleeping baby, underestimating just how quickly the interior of the car could heat up as well as the added danger to a child strapped into a car safety seat.
Multiple studies show that a car left in direct sunlight with no ventilation can reach temperatures of nearly 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Moreover, even cars with window tinting do not block long-wave radiation, which with the intense heat literally can create a greenhouse effect inside the cabin of the car.
Parents who live in high-crime cities are afraid of leaving their children alone in cars for fear of abduction. However, often times they do feel it is okay to leave their child alone provided they can visually see their child in the car while they run in to pay for gas or pick up the dry cleaning.
Unfortunately, within less than five minutes, temperatures can soar to dangerously hot levels.
These types of children's injuries and deaths are preventable, and I urge all parents to follow the measures below and share them with your children's caregivers, especially grandparents and nannies who may not read our blog.
1. Get involved. If you see a child alone in a car, with no parent in sight, call 911.
2. Use drive-throughs whenever possible and unsubscribe to the notion of "I am just going to run in for a minute."
3. Pay at the Pump. If your gas station has one those "pay inside" placards over the credit card swipe, drive to the next station.
4. Stick your cell phone, lipstick or house keys in the back seat so that you are forced to look before you leave and lock your car doors.
Lastly, for those app makers out there, here's a suggestion: create an app that will sound an alarm whenever the ignition is turned off and the car doors are locked, or if a car seat is more than 10 feet from the key fob. I am a personal injury lawyer, not an app creator, so I leave the details up to you.