A toy in front seat may save child’s life

PETALING JAYA: The simple act of having a teddy bear in the front seat of your car may save your child’s life, say child experts.

National Early Childhood Intervention Council adviser Datuk Dr Amar Singh said this was among the few steps which might prevent deaths of young children left in cars due to the “forgotten baby syndrome”.

“The recent deaths of young children left in cars and then dying due to thermal injury is of concern.

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“Twenty to 30 minutes in full sun in a closed vehicle is all that is needed to kill a young child,” he said when contacted yesterday.

He added that parents should also inculcate consistent habits to remind them of their child’s presence at the back seat of the car.

“Keep an object in the front seat to remind you of your child, like a stuffed animal.

“Swap the child and the object when you place the child in the back seat and vice versa when you take your child out of the vehicle,” he said.

“Keep an important item in the back seat with your child, an item that you cannot do without at a meeting, work or shopping.”

Alternatively, he said that parent could keep their wallet, purse, handphone or shoes on the floorboard of the back seat as a reminder before leaving the car.

As back-up safety net, he said that baby-sitters or kindergarten teachers could call a parent if their child does not turn up at the centre at the correct time.

Dr Amar also suggested that car manufacturers install sensors, alarms or application as reminders.

“We need to push for these to become routine in all cars sold in Malaysia.

“Even Waze has inbuilt reminders to support parents transporting children,” he added.

He was commenting the deaths of three young children due to thermal injuries in just over a period of a month.

On Oct 5, an eight-month-old baby died after being left in the car for almost eight hours by her mother at the parking lot of the Canselor Tunku Muhriz Hospital in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

On Oct 25, a 16-month-old girl died after her father had forgotten to drop her off at a public university’s daycare centre in Kuala Nerus, Terengganu.

On Nov 9, a two-year-old girl died after she was accidentally left in a vehicle for more than seven hours after her mother had forgotten to drop the child off at a daycare centre in Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) Children’s Commissioner Dr Farah Nini Dusuki said parents should not over rely on advanced child safety features with regard to the wellbeing of their children.

“It is prudent to recognise that the over-reliance on advanced child safety features has gradually taken away the innate vigilance and hinders memories resulting in parents’ forgetfulness.

“Parents are strongly advised to routinely check on the safety and presence of their children and avoid taking for granted the safety of the children,” she said.

She said that prevention efforts should be ramped up by all relevant stakeholders especially the Transport Ministry to create a nationwide campaign warning parents and public.

Dr Farah Nini added that as a deterrent, prosecutors could also rely on Section 31 of the Child Act 2001 to address parental negligence.

Faculty of Psychology and Social Sciences Dean at University of Cyberjaya, Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan, said the tragic accident occurs usually when someone is distracted or have a lot on their plate and switches to auto-pilot mode and anyone can be vulnerable to it.

“Unfortunately, the child is still in the car, they just forgot about it.

“It is an accident because there is no malice or ill intention to kill the child,

“It is the case where the parents genuinely forget, similarly to us forgetting where we have placed our phones. There is limited space in our short-term memory,” she said.

Asked if this should be deemed as a crime, Dr Anasuya explained that it should not be the case as in Australia and the United States, it was considered an accident.

But for parents, usually they would be consumed with guilt and devastation, which may lead to depression and suicide, she said.

“It can happen to anybody due to the limitation in the brain’s memory. Being distracted and going into auto-pilot mode when you are tired or overwhelmed or just simply running late.

“No one can be exempted from an accident and this is by far one of the most tragic accident there is,” she said.

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