A New Jersey woman is facing charges after her 21-month-old daughter died after being left in a hot car for more than two hours — one of a growing number of heatstroke deaths of children left in vehicles.
Officials responded to a report last month of a child in distress in Lakewood and found a neighbor trying to perform CPR on her, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. The child was admitted to Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, where she died.
The case involving Chaya Shurkin, 25, of Ocean County, who was charged this week with second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, shows the tragic consequences of leaving a child behind. Here’s what to know about hot car deaths and ways to prevent them.
Last year, the number of hot-car deaths was the highest on record, with 52 children dying of pediatric vehicular heatstroke, according to the National Safety Council.
At the start of the warm-weather season, the country is at 11 deaths so far in 2019. About 38 children die in hot-car-related deaths each year on average, according to the council.
Pennsylvania has had 11 hot-car deaths of children under the age of 15 since 1998. New Jersey has had 13. All but three states — Vermont, New Hampshire, and Alaska, plus the District of Columbia — have had such deaths in that time period.
Research by Jan Null of the department of meteorology and climate science at San Jose State University shows that in more than half of these deaths, the child was forgotten in the car by a parent or caregiver. Other causes include children getting into vehicles on their own or being knowingly left behind.
As we approach the hottest months of the year, here are some important facts to keep in mind about hot-car-related deaths.
Cars warm up fast. Vehicles become hot very quickly, even if it does not feel very hot outside. If the outside temperature is 72 degrees, the internal vehicle temperature can reach 117 degrees within 60 minutes.
A study done in 2005 showed that on average, the interior of a car was 40 degrees warmer than the outside temperature in a range of warmer conditions.
Cracking windows doesn’t help. The study demonstrated that cracking windows open does not slow the temperature rise inside the vehicle, or decrease the temperature.
Look before you leave. He also advises to make a “look before you leave” routine before exiting your car, to avoid leaving a child.
In fact, leaving a child has been linked to neurological processes, and the failure of prospective memory.
In his research, psychology professor David Diamond says that in addition to prospective memory issues in the brain, stress, interruptions, multitasking, and sleep deprivation are also factors in leaving a child behind.
New inexpensive technology has been developed to reduce hot-car deaths, including an app (Kars 4 Kids Safety) that will sound an alarm when a parent leaves their car, reminding them to get their child, who may be silent and unable to make noise.
Other technology includes a notification from Waze, a navigation app, to check the car before leaving, among other similar apps.