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A Different Take on Distracted Driving in Montana

There has been a lot of talk about distracted driving – I’ve written and spoken about it several times. most of us think of distracted driving when it comes to actually driving the car. In reality, “distracted driving” is anything that takes your mind away from the task of operating your vehicle safely.

As a Billings lawyer, I have handled a number of car accident cases where distracted driving caused injury to my clients. This doesn’t happen often in Montana. We are probably much more aware of the dangers of hypothermia, but this form of distracted driving does happen every year, usually starting in the spring.

With our exceptionally warm weather of late, it is probably a good time to call attention to leaving children in cars. Each year, 38 children die in hot cars from hyperthermia. Most are left accidentally by parents or caregivers. When you hear of people leaving babies behind in the car, it seems unthinkable. What were those people thinking anyway? Unfortunately, its not as much a careless act as something else.

The majority of these tragic deaths are the result of something very common: distraction. Most of these very high body temperature deaths seem to occur from a busy parent multitasking. You may have even done these things before. Take kids to school, run an errand, drop off the baby, and get to work on time are just a few of parental missions. One of the most common errors, the child falls asleep in the rear facing car seat, the parent forgets to drop off the baby and leaves them in the car all day. These deaths are more the result of our multi-tasking lifestyle putting safety and health at risk.

As the parent of four children of my own in Billings, I can not imagine the grief the parents must have after a preventable accident like this. Here are a few tips to reduce the risk of hyperthermia:

One great way is to put something you need, maybe your cell phone in the back seat floor. This serves a couple of great purposes. You won’t text while its there, and you’ll see your baby when you get out of the car.

Another great idea I’ve heard is to place a teddy bear in the car seat. Whenever the baby is in the seat, the bear goes up front with you. If you have the bear riding shotgun, you’ll remember to check the car seat at your destination.

Child death from accidental hyperthermia is more common in hot weather states like California and Texas, but there was also a somewhat recent case in Montana. However, the actual number of incidents in which kids are left in cars is likely much larger. Preventing accidents is another function of my job as a Billings injury lawyer.

I’ve written a book, “Your Rights,” on the steps you should take to protect yourself after you have been involved in an accident.  You can get the book for free.  Our job at Bishop and Heenan is helping people.