x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

No more tragedies in over-heated cars

The heartbreaking story of another child's death is an urgent reminder of the need for renewed, and continuous, efforts by authorities, social workers, schools and parents.

A diabetic mother nipped into a mall to run a quick errand. But once inside, she fainted and was taken to the hospital. Nobody realised that she had left her baby in the car - until the child was found dead.

That 2009 tragedy, and previous ones like it, prompted the police to take steps to raise parents' awareness of how dangerous it is to leaving children alone in cars. Children can die after only a few minutes during the summer heat, because the temperature inside a vehicle can reach almost 80°C in just ten minutes.

Yet almost every summer, such heartbreaking accidents happen anew. Last week, as The National reported yesterday, two Emirati children died in separate incidents after being left alone in vehicles in daytime outdoor temperatures near 45 degrees.

Unlike the case of the diabetic mother, in which a medical emergency was involved, the families in the latest incidents simply forgot that their children were in the car. A five-year-old girl was left while her family visited a friend in Umm Al Qaiwain city, only to realise two hours later that she was not with them. They found her dead. In the other case, the family of a two-year-old boy realised his absence after four hours.

This danger urgently needs renewed, and continuous, efforts by authorities, social workers, schools and parents.

Parents know that they bear great responsibility, and cases like these can be devastating to the whole family.

Where there is criminal negligence then full legal punishment must follow, as a warning to others. But to reduce the frequency of such deaths, society's vengeance is not the best tool. Rather, parents, grandparents, nannies and other staff must all be reminded and re-reminded that the summer environment can kill with no notice.

"It takes a village" - or in this case a whole society - to keep children safe. In other words, child safety can be - and should be - instilled as a high-priority cultural value. This covers not only overheated cars but also statistically bigger risks such as, for example, the failure to use seat-belts and, for younger children, child-restraint seats.

All of society has a stake in child welfare, and can defend its interest by emphasising to parents that they must think constantly about safety.