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Children and Hot Cars: The Straight Truth

Most parents you know would never willingly allow their children to go into a desert, a factory or a boiler room where temperatures exceed 160 degree heat would they? Of course not. How outrageous. But that’s exactly what parents do when they leave their children locked in hot cars.

Children in hot cars have received quite a bit of press attention here in Georgia lately. Back in June, Janesia Williams, 26, of Ellenwood was arrested after leaving her 4-month-old twins locked inside her hot car while she went in to shop at Wal-Mart. Just a few days later, Krystal Nicole Whitehead, 25, of Barnesville was arrested on charges of cruelty to children after leaving her 5-month-old son in a hot car. Police said the outside temperature was 95 degrees and the child felt hot to the touch. Luckily, all three children are now doing well.

But a 2-year-old in Lexington, Kentucky was not so lucky. The child died after being left by her grandparents in a hot car for two hours. According to police, the grandparents, who were supposed to be watching the child and two others, had rushed into the house to deal with an emergency involving another one of the children. By the time they realized that the 2-year-old was still in the car, she had passed away.

Remember, this was after only two hours in a hot car where the maximum outside temperature reached a mere 89 degrees.

According to a recent statement from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, 42 children around the country died in hot cars in just the last year alone. In our hot Georgia summers, temperatures within hot cars can quickly spike up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine that blistering temperature with the fact that children’s body temperatures can rise 3-5 times faster than adults, and you are left with a potentially deadly threat to our little ones.

Keep in mind that temperatures can rise in a matter of minutes. Those minutes could be the 10 minutes it takes to run into a store or the five minutes a child is left in a hot car while you carry groceries into the house. Children can die in hot cars while the temperature outside is a relatively mild 80 degrees. This includes cars where the windows have been left open for ventilation. One in five child heat fatalities are intentionally left in hot cars but adults. Please get the word out to friends and neighbors about how sweltering temperatures in cars can affect young children. Don’t let them learn this lesson the hard way.

Also talk with your children about hot car dangers. Other heat fatalities have occurred when children accidentally lock themselves in hot cars while playing.
Please read the following tips from Bob Dallas of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and share them with friends and family who have young children:

• Teach children not to play in, on, or around vehicles.

• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows slightly open for ventilation.

• Always lock car doors and trunks, especially at home; keep keys out of children’s reach.

• Check to make sure all children enter and leave the vehicle when heading to and from a destination.

• Be especially careful if dropping-off infants or children at daycare is not part of your normal routine.

• Place something you’ll need at your next stop (i.e. purse, lunch, gym bag, or briefcase) on the floor of the backseat where the child is sitting. This simple act could help prevent you from accidentally forgetting a child.

• If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, call 911 immediately.