It doesn’t take triple-digit temperatures outside for unattended vehicles to reach oven temperatures inside. But as summer weather returns to the Golden Belt, safety experts remind people to never leave a child or pet alone in a vehicle.
Lt. Bill Browne at the Great Bend Police Department said it isn’t unusual for people to call 911 when they see an unattended vehicle with a child or pet inside. More often than not, the vehicle is gone before officers arrive.
Safe Kids Kansas advises that children should never be left alone in a car, even for a minute.
“It’s common sense,” he said. “It may be 90 degrees outside, but it’s 130 degrees in the car. The car is basically an oven.”
Calling 911 to report an unattended child or animal in a vehicle is the right thing to do, Browne said. Those who call should follow the instructions that emergency personnel provide.
Since 1998, at least 569 children died from heat stroke because they were left unattended in vehicles that became too hot for them to survive, said Cherie Sage with Safe Kids Kansas.
“As these tragedies continue to occur, Safe Kids Kansas is intensifying our efforts to get the message out that the inside of a vehicle is an extremely dangerous place for a child alone in hot weather,” she said. “Even on a mild day, the inside of a car can quickly become very hot. This is a place no child should be alone, and because children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults, this makes them much more susceptible to heat stroke.”
KidsAndCars.org reports that seven children in four states died last month in hot cars, even with summer still weeks away. In at least six of the cases the child was under 2 years old and died of heat stroke after being left by a family member.
The Department of Geosciences at San Francisco University reports that 11 children left in cars have died of heat stroke this year in the United States. The total for 2012 was 32 children. Only 7 percent of the cases involved drugs or alcohol.
Safe Kansas Kids reminds parents and caregivers to always check for sleeping children before leaving a vehicle, with the goal of having no more children die from heat stroke when they are “forgotten” in cars. The group also recommends consistently locking unattended vehicle doors and trunks.
Caregivers can create reminders and habits that create a safety net. For example, place a purse, briefcase, gym bag, cell phone or an item that is needed at your next stop in the back seat near the child. Have the child care provider call if the child is not dropped off within 10 minutes of their expected time of care. Create a routine of texting or calling other caregivers when a child is dropped off at child care, so all caregivers know where the child is at all times.
For more information on preventing child heat stroke deaths, visit websites www.ggweather.com/heat and www.safekids.org/heatstroke.