Child deaths in hot cars are down this year, but that isn’t stopping parents and advocates from looking for long-term solutions to an all-too-familiar tragic situation.
On the eve of National Heatstroke Prevention and Awareness Day, concerned parents from across the nation submitted an open letter to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, asking to end their delay on finding technical solutions that could save lives.
"This will never bring our children back, but we are committed to helping keep other families complete so they do not have to live with the grief and guilt our families deal with on a daily basis," the letter read.
Eleven children have died after being left in hot cars for too long this year, down from 21 deaths that happened before August 1 of last year, according to NoHeatStroke.org. There were a total of 31 hot car deaths in 2014.
While deaths are down year over year, officials warn that families are not in the clear, with a few warm months still to come.
“We’re going into a very hot month and we don’t know what’s going to happen in August, or September or October,” Kate Carr, president of SAFEKIDS Worldwide said in an interview with NBC Owned Television Stations. “This is important all the time. You have to remain vigilant about this every single month.”
There have been close calls with hot cars recently. The latest to make headlines happened Thursday in a New Jersey parking lot, where a young girl was saved by police after bystanders noticed she had been left in the car while her mother shopped inside.
While some high-tech efforts to prevent the deaths have been introduced, such as a car seat that sounds an alarm when the car is shut off to remind parents of their child sitting in the back seat, activists say they want more from the government officials.
“Look at technology; we’ve heard thousands of ideas, we have an eight inch pile of different patents and at this point we need to get the government on board as well,” said Janette Fennell, founder of KidsandCars.org.
In 2012, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act was passed. But some little has been done in the three years since the creation of the law, which promised car safety research.
"During that period of time, we lost our beautiful little boy, Ben. I can't help but imagine that he would still be alive today if the Department of Transportation had sprung into action when they first learned about this risk over a decade ago," one parent, Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, said in the letter.
Officials recommend keeping a shoe, purse, or other important item in the back seat of the car, or keeping a stuffed animal in the front seat as ways to remember children in the vehicle. They add it’s important to remember this can happen to everyone, and take the necessary precautions.
“As hard as we educate and they educate, they say 'It’s not going to happen to me,'” Fennell said. “Ninety percent of the time it happens to the best parents. It’s not bad people.”