According to kidsandcars.org, a website that tracks instances of “hot car” deaths nationwide, since 1990, more than 900 children in the United States have died inside vehicles that have been locked without adequate ventilation. Thus far in 2019, the number stands at 26, less than half of 2018’s total of 53.
For the Borough of Haddonfield, which boasts a number of families with both children and pets, the issue is not as prevalent, but it is still a public-health concern during the middle months of the year, when weather is at its most hot and humid.
“Leaving a child in a vehicle during hot weather can lead to horrific consequences. Taking the right steps to prevent this from happening should be taken. First and foremost, never leave a child in a vehicle during hot weather,” said Mayor Neal Rochford, commissioner for public safety.
“Even with the windows open it only takes minutes for the inside of a vehicle to heat up. Don’t leave a child in a vehicle that is running with air conditioning on. Depending on their age they can play with the settings or take the vehicle out of park. If anyone observes a child in a car unattended, they are instructed to call 911.”
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website, hundreds of pets die under similar circumstances. Temperatures inside vehicles with either no ventilation or poor ventilation can differ from outside air temperature by as much as 35 degrees Fahrenheit over 30 minutes on an 85-degree day, per the site.
“Pets are equally in danger if left unattended in vehicles during hot weather. Pet owners also must be careful of hot sidewalks and streets. Their pets paws can burn on the hot surface. Keeping pets hydrated is also very important during the summer months.
“We all love and cherish our children and pets. Let’s remember good common sense as we navigate our busy lives,” Rochford added.
Lit. Stephen Camiscioli of the Haddonfield Police Department said, if there is any kind of climate emergency involving a vehicle, officers are instructed to forcibly enter to facilitate the rescue both children and pets.
He happily added that, going back through police records from August 2018 to the present, there was not a single recorded incident in the borough of either a child or pet left in a vehicle unattended and with either minimal or no ventilation.
While an issue of public health and safety, the act of leaving a child in a vehicle with little or no ventilation is not a separate charge in itself in Camden County or the state. Statistics for those specific events are not categorized or kept on record, and any charges stemming from incidents where either children or pets are left in vehicles would come from municipal police departments, said Alex McVeigh from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drivers can take the following steps to avoid the unthinkable when it comes to children and pets as passengers: always check the back seat and make sure all children are out of the car before locking it and walking away; avoid distractions while driving, especially cell phone use; be extra alert when there is a change in your routine, like when you take a different route to work or child care; have your child care provider call if your child is more than 10 minutes late; put your cell phone, bag, or purse in the back seat, so you check that area when you arrive at your destination; keep rear fold-down seats closed to prevent a child from crawling into the trunk from inside the car.