Temperatures are on the rise this week and Kentucky State Police are warning parents not to leave a child alone in a hot car. It may seem like common sense, but every year law enforcement agencies answer calls about unattended children in vehicles. KidsandCars.org reports that 39 children died in the U.S. during 2016 from vehicular heat stroke with 11 deaths already in 2017.
KSP spokesman Lt. Michael Webb says vehicle heat stroke is often misunderstood by the general public. A majority of parents are misinformed and would like to believe that they could never ‘forget’ their child in a vehicle. “The most dangerous mistake a parent can make is to think leaving a child alone in their car could never happen to them,” says Webb. “In these fast-paced times, it is easy for parents to get distracted and forget their child is in the car with them.”
Webb advised that the interior of a car heats up very quickly and temperatures inside can reach 125 degrees in minutes. “A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than that of an adult,” adds Webb. “The temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes. Together, this can be deadly in a very short period of time.”
Webb says another component to these tragic deaths is the genuine curiosity of a child. Far too often, a child will be outside playing and end up in a car, locking themselves inside of the vehicle. “A child will climb into a vehicle to play and is overcome with hear, becoming disoriented and unable to get out,” adds Webb. “In extreme summer heat, a child can become incapacitated in a very short time. Tragically, about 33 percent of children who die in hot cars entered the vehicle on their own while left unattended,” he says.
In 2000, Kentucky passed “Bryan’s Law,” which makes a person liable for second-degree manslaughter or first-degree wanton endangerment for leaving a child younger than eight years of age in a motor vehicle where circumstances pose a grave risk of death. The law was named after 11-month old Bryan Puckett, who died July 13, 1999 after being left in a hot car by his babysitter.
Webb offers the following safety tips:
Never leave a child in an unattended car, even with the windows down.
Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don't overlook sleeping babies.
Always lock your car. If a child is missing, check the car first, including the trunk. Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and when the child is put in the seat place the animal in the front with the driver as a reminder.
Place your purse or briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
Make ‘look before you leave’ a routine whenever you get out of the car.
Webb says while a person will face criminal charges for leaving a child in a car, the pain and guilt from making such a mistake will last far longer.
KSP also asks citizens to keep an eye out for children left in vehicles on hot days and to call 911 if they think the occupant is in danger.