Your Parenting Info Sign Up

Danger in Plain Sight

by Lori Sciame | October 17th, 2013 | Preschool, Safety

little boy n car“Pastor: 2 year-old boy found dead in trunk had keys with him.”  This heart wrenching headline from Fox News presents a little-known safety issue for young children: being trapped in a car trunk. As a regular writer for Your Parenting Info, I have written about many pressing safety issues, but trunk safety had not been on my radar, that is until I witnessed the drama unfold in this little boy’s case.  As reported in the July 19 issue of the StarTribune, Isaiah Theis of western Wisconsin had found his way into a car trunk and died from excessive heat.  Authorities found him 24 hours after he went missing.

Sadly, many other young children have suffered Isaiah’s fate. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a February 2000 report to Congress, “. . . at least 15 children died during an 11-year period in cars parked either at their house or at a relative’s house.” And concluded that 22 children died in trunks between 2002 and 2011. These numbers might seem low, meaning the problem doesn’t need to be publicized, but think about the parents of the children who died not knowing about this danger in plain sight. 

Safe Kids Worldwide provides parents/guardians with the tools needed to prevent such tragedies.  To start, follow these tips presented on their website:

  • Teach kids that trunks are for transporting cargo and are not safe places to play.
  • Make sure to lock your vehicle, including doors and trunk, when you’re not using it. Keep keys and remote entry fobs out of children’s sight and reach.
  • Keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent kids from climbing into the trunk from inside your car.
  • Show older kids how to locate and use the emergency trunk release found in cars manufactured after Sept. 1, 2001. Very young children may not have the strength or ability to open the release bar. Children should never be alone in a trunk.
  • If your child is missing, get help and check swimming pools, vehicles and trunks. If your child is locked in a car, get him or her out as quickly as possible and dial 911 immediately. Emergency personnel are trained to evaluate and check for signs of heatstroke.

In addition to implementing these steps, parents/guardians must also realize that youngsters need be constantly supervised.  At this age, many preschoolers are full of energy and impulsive.  Even if mom or dad take a few minutes to use the restroom, it may be just enough time for an active child to sneak out the door — not to be naughty, but because he or she thought of something fun to do outside.  Because of this, having a system in place to monitor a preschooler’s whereabouts at all times may be necessary.  Even a hook and eye latch placed high on the inside garage door will offer some protection.

Finally, even though newer cars have glow in the dark escape levers inside the trunk, a young child may not have the strength to pull them.  Constant supervision is the only sure way to prevent a child from dying in a locked car trunk.

Comments on Danger in Plain Sight