Hot cars & kids don't mix [Editorial]

In the past 15 years, more than 600 children have died in vehicles from heat stroke in the U.S.

USA Today last week responded to the death of a 22-month-old child who died in Georgia after being left in a vehicle by compiling a list of facts associated with children's deaths caused by heat stroke.


Among those, USA Today noted that since 1998 an average of 38 children have died each year in hot cars. Of those, 70 percent were age 2 or younger.

While 20 percent of the deaths happened because the caregiver intentionally left the child in vehicle, USA Today noted that in about 30 percent of the cases the child got in the vehicle without anyone knowing and then could not get out.

Parents should consider this and ensure that they lock their vehicles even when they are in their own driveway so that a child can't get in.

Children's body temperatures can increase three to five times faster than adults, USA Today noted, and cracking a window or parking in a shady area does not make much of a difference. The temperature in a vehicle can rise quickly, and it does not have to be a sweltering hot day for temperatures inside a closed vehicle to reach fatal levels.

The same warnings that apply to children also apply to pets. Last week, Annapolis police charged a women who allegedly left her dog in her car for two hours as outside temperatures reached near 90. The woman was charged with misdemeanor animal abuse offenses and the dog had to be euthanized.

The repeated warnings that come each summer should be enough to raise awareness about the danger of leaving children or pets in vehicles on hot days. It is particularly distressing that even today we continue to see incidents where children die after being left in vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises parents to never leave kids alone in a hot car, even briefly; to always check the front and back seats of the car before you lock it and leave; to put a computer, briefcase or purse in the back so you don't forget to check before leaving your vehicle and to always lock your vehicle when you leave it.

Additionally, if you see a child, or pet, alone in a hot car, dial 911 immediately and get them out if they are in distress.