JOINT PRESS STATEMENT - WHAT WE MUST DO TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN FROM DYING IN VEHICLES
22 July 2013
The recent incident of a toddler who died from hyperthermia (heatstroke) after being left in a vehicle parked in a school in USJ 4 Subang Jaya is shocking and fills us all with grief. As parents of two young children ourselves, we cannot imagine the sorrow that is upon the parents of the little girl. Our prayers are with the family as they grieve and mourn over the loss of their beloved daughter and attempt to come to terms with what has just happened.
We need to do all that we can to ensure that children do not lose their lives in such a manner. The causes of such deaths are typically and horrifyingly either due to a parent/caregiver genuinely forgetting that the child is in the vehicle or intentionally leaving the child in a vehicle for whatever reason.
The first cause of a forgetful parent is inexcusable but research has shown that it can happen to anyone. Analyses of such cases in the United States have shown that it has happened to just about any parent, father or mother, irrespective of age, educational background, profession, ethnicity, social class or the quality of parenting. Memory experts have also uncovered that the human brain is capable of such a fault, a grave act of forgetting that your child is in the car, under certain circumstances. Stopping such cases from happening isn’t simple and requires greater effort, but we must start somewhere and we will suggest a few measures.
The second cause of intentionally leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is a criminal act which many parents are oblivious to. Parents have been seen leaving children unattended in vehicles with running engines in order to run a quick errand while some allow children to play in parked vehicles unattended. The recent case of William Yau who went wandering off from an unattended vehicle and being found dead a week later is a painful reminder that children must not be left unattended in vehicles for any amount of time.
We are hereby urging the Federal government and the respective Ministries to commit to the following actions in order to protect our children from such deaths:
Home Ministry - Release official data on the number of hyperthermia deaths of children being left in vehicles. We do not know the extent of this problem without official data. In the US alone, it records an average of 37 such deaths every year.
Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development - Amend the Child Act 2001 so it specifically addresses the crime of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle for any given period of time. The current clause of leaving a child without reasonable supervision needs to be less ambiguous and place a greater emphasis on ensuring the utmost safety of the child.
Road Transport Department (JPJ) - Immediately incorporate into the driver’s education curriculum the dangers facing children in vehicles. The Road Transport Department must ensure that every learner driver is made aware of the basic principle that the vehicle is not a safe place for children.
Health Ministry - Immediately incorporate into neonatal and parenting courses in all hospitals the dos and don’ts of caring for children in and around vehicles. Every new parent must be aware of the dangers.
Education Ministry - To provide crèche and childcare facilities for the children of staff and teachers. An examination of media reports have shown that a large number of cases of children being left to die in hot vehicles occur in parking lots of parent’s workplaces as parents have forgotten to drop off the child at a private childcare centre. Basic childcare has to be made accessible in our public schools and we must start with a facility for the educators. This will in turn spur private employers to begin offering such facilities as well.
No child deserves to die at the hands of their parent and no parent deserves the pain of having unintentionally causing the death of their child. We must arrest this problem now and we urge all sectors of society to contribute to raising the awareness of this issue as more can be done and help save the lives of our children.
ADUN Subang Jaya
Ahli Parlimen Kelana Jaya