With the weather service upgrading this week’s heat watch and issuing an excessive heat warning for the Southland, temperatures are expected to reach the upper high 90s to 100-plus degrees. The Automobile Club of Southern California strongly cautions motorists not to leave children alone in a closed vehicle and not to allow children to play in or around vehicles.
The Auto Club reminds parents and childcare givers that children can die within minutes in hot temperatures inside a vehicle. Last week in Fontana, a child, age 2, was left in a vehicle while his mother was inside a nail salon. She was subsequently arrested. California law makes it illegal to leave children unattended in a vehicle. “Make ‘check the back seat for children before you leave the car’ a routine whenever you exit a vehicle,” said Steven Bloch, Ph.D., the Auto Club’s senior traffic safety researcher. About 52% of children in vehicles were left intentionally by adults, according to California researchers.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children 14 and younger. In fact, one child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days from being left in a hot vehicle.
Nationwide 550 children died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles since 1998, with 23 deaths thus far in 2012. Last year, 33 children died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles.
“We think that we’re only going to be inside a store for a few minutes, but children under age four are the most at-risk for having their lives endangered by being left in a hot car,” said Bloch. “Children should not be intentionally left in a car by an adult, or forgotten because of adult distraction. Children also should not be allowed to play in or around cars,” he added.
Parking in shade, cracking windows open and tinted windows don’t lessen the interior temperature of a closed car, according to pediatric researchers. Doctors warn that if it’s a 90 degree day, it could be at least 130 degrees inside a car. Within minutes the temperature climbs to 150 degrees; a child is dehydrated with body temperature climbing above 107 degrees.
The Auto Club urges motorists to:
- Note if a child is locked unattended in a car to immediately call 9-1-1.
- Never leave car keys where children can get to them.
- Keep doors and windows locked at all times, even in a garage or driveway.
- Never leave a child unattended in a car, even if windows are tinted, cracked open or down.
- Make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination.
- Before buckling up your child, make sure the seat and seat belt are not too hot.
- Don’t treat heatstroke at home with cold water or cooling the child in a tub of water. Only a specialist should treat heatstroke. Seek medical treatment immediately.