11 children have already died this year.
By: Erin Marquis
An 8-month-old Louisiana girl died Wednesday when she was left in a hot car by her father. The child became the 11th to die this year of hyperthermia, a 275-percent increase in deaths over last year. Raylee Mercer was supposed to drop his daughter off at daycare. Instead he drove to his job as a math teacher at Baton Rouge school, forgetting his daughter was in the back seat. The infant was in the car from 9 am to 11:30 am in 93-degree heat, according to the Associated Press. When Mercer realized his daughter was in the seat, he immediately drove to the nearest emergency room, but doctors were unable to resuscitate her. He was arrested and charged with negligent homicide.
The girl was the second child to die on Wednesday as a police officer in Rome, NY, left his infant son in a hot car. The current death toll is now up to 11. This time last year, four children had died after being left in a hot car, according to the National Safety Council. Deaths usually increase as the temperature does, and the National Weather Service is predicting a hot summer due to a particularly strong El Nino cycle. The average death toll is 38 child deaths per year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year saw a lower death toll than usual, with 24 deaths.
NoHeatStroke.org found that 53 percent of parents simply forgot about their child in the car. A change in routine or a lack of sleep, problems which all parents are familiar with, can have devastating consequences. While deaths are usually clustered in the south of the country, temperatures can quickly rise in a car even on a mild day. Children's bodies are not as efficient as adults' at cooling off, and car seats often act as a insulator, compounding the risks. While some have tinkered with techy solutions to try and prevent such tragedies from occurring, the only real way to avoid such a fate is vigilance.