Don't Leave Kids in Vehicles

With the local weather forecast warning about a heat wave set to arrive in the Southland before week’s end, and temperatures expected to top 100 in the valleys and rise above 110 in the desert through Monday, 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 care givers that children can die within minutes inside a hot vehicle and 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 the Auto Club’s Manager of Community Programs and Traffic Safety Anita Lorz Villagrana,  About 52% of children in vehicles were forgotten by adults and 29% of children were playing in an unattended vehicle, 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 575 children died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles since 1998, with 15 deaths thus far in 2013, including a June 7 death in Fresno.  Last year, 32 children died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles. In California, 36 children died in cars from 1998-2012.


“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 Villagrana. “Children should not be left in a car by an adult, or forgotten because of an adult’s distraction.  If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately,” she urged.


Shaded parking, 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 a life-threatening 130 degrees inside a car.  A child’s body isn’t as efficient as an adult’s and warms 3-5 times faster leading to dehydration and heatstroke.   


The Auto Club urges motorists to:

  • Note if a child is locked unattended in a car and immediately call 9-1-1.
  • Never leave car keys or car remote where children can get to them.
  • Always keep doors and windows locked to prevent kids from playing inside a vehicle.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a car, even if windows are tinted, cracked open or down. 
  • Develop “look before leaving” routines.  Ensure all kids exit the vehicle at your destination.
  • Create an electronic devices reminder to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare.
  • Develop a daycare drop-off plan so that if your child is late or isn’t at daycare, you’ll be called within a few minutes. Some children have been left in office parking lots by distracted adults forgetting to drop them off at day care.
  • 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.