The Washington Post

Survey: Many parents are willing to leave kids unattended in car


In the retelling, the accounts sound as tragic as a tragedy can be: A forgetful or distracted parent leaves behind an infant or toddler in a car parked in the summer heat, with deadly results.

Almost 7 in 10 parents surveyed said they had heard such stories, but they were willing to leave their own children unattended in a car anyway. Particularly dads and parents of children age 3 and under said they had left their kids alone in a parked car, according to a survey of 1,000 parents and caregivers conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Washington.

“Leaving a child unattended in a hot vehicle can result in swift, devastating and tragic consequences,” David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in a statement. “One tragedy is one too many, and that’s why it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand that they serve as the first line of defense for preventing child heatstroke fatalities.”

The survey results were presented in Nashville at the National Lifesavers Conference on Highway Safety Priorities, an annual gathering of more than 2,000 traffic safety advocates and professionals. The survey also revealed that:

  • 14 percent of parents say they  have left their infants, toddlers or kindergarten-age children alone in a parked vehicle. For parents of children three and under, the percentage increases to 23 percent.
  • 11 percent of parents say they have forgotten their child in a car. For those with children age 3 and under, it is nearly 1 in 4.
  • Dads are almost three times more likely than moms to leave a child alone in a parked car.

“Many people are shocked to learn that the temperature inside of a car can rise up to 20 degrees in 10 minutes and cracking a window doesn’t help,”  Kate Carr, president of Safe Kids Worldwide, said in a statement. “Tragedies from heatstroke in cars happen far too often. They are heartbreaking and preventable, and this research is a reminder that we need to continue to raise awareness, particularly for dads and parents with children under three, to never leave a child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”

Since 1998,  606 children are known to have died from heatstroke while unattended in a vehicle. More than 8 percent were children age 3 and under. In 2013, 44 children died, one of the worst years on record. There have been two heatstroke deaths recorded so far this year.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.



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