FRANKFORT, Ky. – With the mercury on the rise this week, KSP is warning parents not to leave a child alone in a hot car. It may seem like common sense, but every year law enforcement officers respond to calls about unattended children in vehicles.
According to the safety organization Kids and Cars*, 44 children died in 2017 of hyperthermia as a result of being left in a hot car. These include instances where a child has been forgotten in a car, accidentally locks themselves in a car or trunk or, in a small number of cases, when a child has been intentionally left in a car.
KSP spokesman Sgt. Josh Lawson 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 Lawson. “In these fast-paced times, it is easy for parents to get distracted and forget their child is in the car with them.”
Lawson advised that the increasing number of children dying in hot cars is reaching epidemic proportions.
“A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than that of an adult,” adds Lawson. “The temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes. Depending on the circumstances, an infant could die of hyperthermia in just 15 minutes on a 75-degree day.”
Lawson 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 heat, becoming disoriented and unable to get out,” adds Lawson. “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.
Lawson 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.
- Lawson 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 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.