Parents are advised never to leave a child in the car, because this may result in fatal incidents.
“If it is summer or winter, whether the air conditioning (AC) is switched on or off; a child should never be left in the car without supervision, because the level of oxygen is not sufficient and the child may die as a result,” said Raed Al Marzooqi, Head of the Occupational Health and Safety Section of Dubai Municipality.
His comments came in response to an incident last Saturday in Kalba, where a child was found dead after being left in the car for four hours, with outside temperatures of 42°C. The parents had parked the car in the parking garage of their house and forgotten the child, who was sleeping in the back seat. Once the family became aware of the situation, it was already too late.
“There should always be somebody assigned to take care of the children,” advises Al Marzooqi. “Some families may have a lot of children, and some children might have fallen in sleep. But it is unacceptable that a child is left behind. Before the car is left, somebody should make sure that nobody is left behind.”
At the launch of the Safe and Healthy Summer Campaign organised by the Health and Safety Section of Dubai Municipality a couple of weeks ago, the issue was referred to by Wasyl Terych, Chartered Safety and Health Practicioner at Eta Consultancy.
“Every year we see a couple of cases in this region of abandoned kids in the car; some of these cases are fatal,” he said. “We need to make people more aware of the dangers of such behavior.”
In 2009, a four-year-old girl died after she was left on a school bus in Abu Dhabi, and many cases of life-saving operations have been reported after children were found abandoned in a car.
The problem is not confined to the UAE. Kids and Cars, a US-based organization that monitors incidents involving children in and around the car reported 600 fatal cases of children being left in the car between 1990 and 2010 in the US alone.
“In fact, being in a small area without sufficient supply of oxygen is dangerous for any human being,” says Al Marzooqi. “Adults could die in the same way. However, adults are able to resist themselves. They could break a window, which a child could not do.”
The time that is needed for an incident like this to become fatal depends on the situation, explains Al Marzooqi. “It depends on the outside temperature and on the health of the child at that moment. If the child is hungry, thirsty, or sleepy the risks are higher.”
Earlier a device was invented by a police employee that would decrease chances of parents leaving a child, as it linked the child’s car seat to the mobile phone of the parent, alerting the latter that the child was still there after the parent had left the car. The reminder would become more urgent after time, and eventually an alarm would set off and the car windows would be opened.
“With open car windows the chances of suffocation are not there,” explains Al Marzooqi. “But the problem is that people do not readily open the car windows in summer temperatures as we know them in the UAE.”
Al Marzooqi added that the problem is not very common in the UAE. “We might be talking about 1 or 2 cases in 3 years. Until now, our focus has been on other health and safety-related incidents that are more apparent, such as that of workers dealing with heat distress.”