More Than 200 Cases of Kids Left Alone in Cars Reported Since 2008

Report submitted to Knesset panel in 2010 made recommendations to prevent such tragedies, but committee said warning systems are not easily implemented.

Dan Even
Dan Even
Dan Even
Dan Even

More than 200 cases of babies left alone in vehicles have been reported in Israel since 2008, of which 188 were injured or nearly injured and 12 died. All were between the ages of 2 and 5, and 27 were left in vans. From the beginning of this year, 13 children were reported forgotten in vehicles, four of whom died.

The figures were released Monday by child-safety group Safe Kids Israel after a year-and-a-half-year-old baby died after being left in a car in the Dolev settlement near Ramallah. This was the second such incident in a day and third in two weeks. In all incidents, the babies died.

In all of the 205 cases mentioned in the Safe Kids Israel report, the children were between the ages of 2 and 5, and 27 were left in vans. From the beginning of this year, 13 children were reported forgotten in vehicles, four of whom died.

Leaving a child in a closed vehicle can be fatal according to medical research, because the small dimensions of a child's body cause their body temperature to rise three to five times faster than that of an adult. A study by General Motors in 2001 showed that when the outside temperature reached 35 degrees Celsius, the temperature inside the car after 20 minutes was 50 degrees and after 40 minutes had risen to 65.5 degrees.

The medical community already has an unofficial name for the phenomenon - Forgotten Baby Syndrome, or FBS, which has been documented in all Western countries. In the United States, an estimated 12 babies die each year after being forgotten in vehicles.

Although no definitive study has been made of the type of person who might tend to forget a baby in a closed car, from cases reported in the media they seem to be functioning, normative adults. "I don't know if any parent could forget his child in a car, but under certain circumstances, such a tragedy could certainly happen to normative parents," Dr. Zvi Zemishlany, director of Geha Psychiatric Hospital, said. Zemishlany said these parents clearly did not intend to hurt their children.

A report with recommendations on the matter, submitted to the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Transportation Ministry in February 2010, obtained by Haaretz, recommends focusing on explanatory measures rather than electronic warning systems. The report, written by Dr. Meir Ziv-Av, former Transportation Ministry chief scientist, who headed an interministerial committee on the matter, stated that warning systems could not be easily implemented because no international standard existed for them making them potentially dangerous. Determining an Israeli standard could take years, the committee said.

The Transportation Ministry began to move ahead on determining standards for such systems only two weeks ago.

The committee did recommend installing warning systems in vehicles used to transport children. The system the committee assessed, presented by two companies, Dan and Ituran, has the vehicle alarm switch in the back of the vehicle. To arm the alarm, the driver has to physically go to the back, presumably checking for forgotten children or suspicious objects on the way. The system could be installed in new cars under the manufacturer's warrantee. The Standards Institute is now studying the device.

FBS is not considered a car accident, and so it is not covered by obligatory insurance. The committee does not recommend that such insurance cover it, because it would increase the cost of insurance. However, the chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for the Rights of the Child, MK Orly Levi-Abekassis (Yisrael Beiteinu) has begun preparing a bill to define FBS as a car accident in order to encourage insurance companies to demand that warning systems be installed.

Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) has called a conference, to be held in the Knesset tomorrow on the subject, to be attended by MKs, representatives of the Transportation Ministry, the Council for the Welfare of the Child and other agencies.

Zaka rescue services by car where baby was left on July 1, 2013Credit: Moti Milrod

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