Last week’s tip warned of the dangers of leaving pets in vehicles. Almost 24 hours after our post was published, local news stations were reporting a story about a child who suffered heatstroke from being left inside of an unattended vehicle. A few days later, another child died after he climbed into a car parked in the sun. So far in 2014, it’s estimated that 19 children have died due to vehicular heatstroke.
The Arcadia Police Department wants to remind our community that children and unattended vehicles don’t mix. This isn’t just about leaving children inside of vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in more than 29% of vehicular heatstroke related deaths, the child climbed into an unsecured vehicle on their own.
The California Office of Traffic Safety states that in Just 10 minutes in hot sun can raise the internal temperature of a car by nearly 20 degrees, over 30 degrees in a half hour, and nearly 45 degrees in an hour. Children’s body heat regulatory systems are less efficient than an adult’s, allowing them to overheat 3 to 5 times faster. Injuries due to heatstroke in hot cars can cause ailments including permanent brain injury, blindness and the loss of hearing, among others.
In 2001, the governor of California signed “Kaitlyn’s Law” also known as the “Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Safety Act” into law. This law was named for Kaitlyn Russell, a 6-month-old who died after being left by a baby-sitter in a parked car for more than two hours as temperatures reached triple digits. The law makes it illegal for a child to be left unattended in a motor vehicle.
California Vehicle Code 15620(a) partially states: A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, under any of the following circumstances:
- Where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety.
- When the vehicle's engine is running or the vehicle's keys are in the ignition, or both.
A violation of subdivision (a) is an infraction punishable by a fine of one hundred dollars ($100). Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under both this section and Section 192 of the Penal Code (Manslaughter), or Section 273a (Child endangerment), or any other provision of law.
The Arcadia Police Department offers the following tips related to children and unattended vehicles:
- Never leaver a child in a vehicle with the motor running or the key in the ignition.
- Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination. Don't overlook sleeping children or infants.
- Place a reminder of your child's presence where you'll be sure to see it before leaving the vehicle (diaper bag next to your briefcase, baby blanket under your lunch or any other type of reminder of your child's presence).
- When shopping at the grocery store, ask the clerks to load your bags into your vehicle and return the cart instead of leaving a child alone, even for and instant.
- Always lock your car, even in the garage or driveway. If a child is missing, immediately check the car including the trunk.
- Never leave car keys within the reach of children.
- Teach children never to play in, on or around cars.
- Make it a habit to check the inside of your vehicle prior to exiting.
- Never let children ride or play in the cargo area, trunk or bed of any vehicle.
- If a child is locked inside a vehicle, get him/her out as quickly as possible. Call 9-1-1 for assistance if necessary. If the child appears hot or sick, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Dangers to children left unattended in vehicles include:
- Heat Stroke (hyperthermia)
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Runaway vehicles
- Child abduction
- Body parts crushed by power windows and sunroofs.
- Trunk entrapment
- Self-release from car seat
- Emotional trauma
Unfortunately, too many children are still being left unsupervised in or around vehicles each year and the results are often tragic.