TOWSON, MD (July 9, 2013) – AAA Mid-Atlantic reminds parents, guardians, and caregivers of the dangers when leaving children unattended in cars during the summer, as the inside temperature of a vehicle can reach up to 131 to 172 degrees Fahrenheit when parked in direct sunlight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far this year, 19 children across the country have died after being trapped in an unattended vehicle. Sadly, two young children in the Baltimore-Washington metro region died last Friday, July 5, when caregivers forgot to drop them off at daycare, only to find them unresponsive in their respective cars several hours later on a day when the heat index was well above 90 degrees.
“These deaths prove a painful point – children cannot be left unattended in cars,” said Ragina C. Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “It’s important to remember that temperatures inside a car on a day with outside temperatures in the mid-to-high 90’s can quickly soar to nearly 200 degrees, which is hot enough to cook many foods and to kill most living things. Never leave children or pets in a parked car. If you do see a child or pet locked in a car and cannot find the owner of the vehicle, call 911 immediately.”
Since 1998, there have been at least 559 heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, according to San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences. On average, 38 children die each year, or one every 9 days, as a result of being left in hot cars.
According to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the risk of serious injury or death during hot weather is heightened for children left alone in vehicles. Heatstroke, which is a form of hyperthermia, is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under the age of 14, representing 61 percent of non-crash related fatalities in this age group.
AAA Mid-Atlantic and NHTSA offer the following safety tips:
· Never leave a child alone in a car – even with the windows partially opened – as a vehicle’s interior can still heat up quickly to deadly temperatures.
· Do not leave your children in a running vehicle with the air conditioner on even for a few minutes; your child may put the car into drive or even get caught in a closing power window, not to mention that you increase the risk of your vehicle being carjacked and your child abducted.
· Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away. Children have died because they fell asleep in their car seats and their parents or caregivers didn’t realize they were still in the car.
· If your spouse or a guardian is taking your children to day care ask him or her to call you to make sure the drop-off went according to plan.
· Do things to remind you that a child is in the vehicle:
· Leave a written note in your vehicle where you will see it as you leave the vehicle, such as on the dashboard area.
· Place your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat where your child is seated so that you will have to check that area when you leave the vehicle.
· Keep an object in your child’s car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when leaving the vehicle, as a reminder that a child is in the back seat.
· Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle – teach them that a car is not a play area; always lock your car doors and keep car keys out of children’s reach.
NHTSA offers additional tips on keeping children safe at safecar.gov.