Summer is here and temperatures are rising, prompting the Burlington County Health Department and Burlington County Sheriff’s Department to remind residents about the importance of preventing hot car deaths and injuries.
“As we move into the summer and the scorching days of the year, we want to remind everyone about the dangers of leaving children or pets unattended in vehicles and the importance of taking precautions and creating habits to prevent tragedies from happening,” said Dr. Herb Conaway, director of the Burlington County Health Department.
“Heat-related injuries and deaths are entirely preventable but still occur because people assume it won’t happen to them or their family,” added Burlington County Undersheriff Jim Kostoplis. “We need everyone to be aware of the danger and take the steps needed to ensure no child or pet is endangered. That means immediately calling 911 if you ever see a child or pet left alone in a hot car.”
The nonprofit safety group Kids and Car Safety reports that more than 1,000 children have died in hot cars since 1990. Thousands more have suffered injuries inside hot vehicles.
The group says the majority of the deaths were the result of a child being forgotten and left inside a vehicle unattended. About a quarter of the cases involved children who got into the car on their own and became trapped. Only about 20 percent involve cases where a child was knowingly left in a vehicle.
Safety advocates warn that children are more susceptible to heat-stroke and other related injuries and illnesses because their body temperatures rise three to five times faster than an adult’s. Death can occur in a matter of minutes, and temperatures in vehicles can rise extremely fast.
Animals can also sustain brain damage or die from heatstroke within 15 minutes.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Transportation warn that temperatures in a car can rise to 114 degrees in 30 minutes during an 80-degree day,” said Conaway. “That’s dangerous for any child or pet, so it’s important to remember to bring them with you when you exit a car, no matter how short a time period.”
Undersheriff Kostoplis suggested some tips for parents and caregivers that can help prevent children from being left alone in vehicles or from accessing them unattended. Place a note or visual cue (like a toy) in the front passenger seat to remind you that a child or pet is with you; make it a routine or habit to check the back seat every time you park. To help, place an important item like a purse, briefcase or lunch in the backseat; keep vehicles locked at all times and never leave keys within the reach of children and ask your childcare provider to call you right away if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
“These are simple actions that can help prevent heat-related tragedies involving precious loved ones,” said Undersheriff Kostoplis. “We all have a lot going on in our lives and it’s easy to get distracted. That’s why it’s important to remind residents about the potential dangers and how to prevent tragedies from occurring. Always remember to ‘Park, Look and Lock’ when leaving your car.”