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The Danger of Hot Vehicles

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By Cara Beth Lewis

Over 1,000 children have died from heatstroke in hot cars since 1990, according to data collected by KidsAndCars.org. The number of child hot car deaths for 2020 was 25. So far this year, 21 deaths have been reported.

Over half of these deaths occurred because someone forgot the child was in the car.

  • About 46% of the time when a child was forgotten, the caregiver meant to drop the child off at a daycare or preschool.

  • Thursdays and Fridays — the end of the workweek — have had the highest deaths.

  • Nearly 75% of children who are forgotten and die are under 2 years old.

(From nhtsa.gov)

In most cases, these tragedies could have been prevented. Here are some tips to prevent this from happening to you.

  1. Get in the habit of checking your backseat before exiting your vehicle. Check, lock, leave.

  2. The second leading cause of these incidents is children getting in unattended vehicles. Always lock your car doors and trunk to prevent this.

  3. Keep a close eye on children around vehicles.

  4. The same dangers that apply to children apply to pets. Do not leave pets in the car. When the temperature outside is 70 degrees, the temperature in a car can easily reach 115 degrees. This is very dangerous for both children and pets.

  5. If you see a child or animal alone in a vehicle, try to locate their parents. If they seem unresponsive or in distress, seek help immediately. If you feel that it is necessary, call 911.

A few of many tragedies are listed below:

  • North Augusta, SC, April: A mother left her a 15-month-old son in a car. He was in a car for 9 hours while his mom went to work. She is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.

  • Honolulu, HI, March: A 3-year-old girl died when the father left her in a child seat for 1.5 hours while he visited friends in a Waikiki apartment building. The outside temperature was only 81 degrees.

  • Greenville, TX, December: A 6-month-old boy died after being left in a car for more than 2 hours by his mother. She was charged with murder. The temperature rose to 81 degrees on that day.

In North Carolina, it is illegal to leave a child or pet in a vehicle if it is dangerous to their health and well-being. Below is the law regarding animals:

 “§ 14-363.3. Confinement of animals in motor vehicles

(a) In order to protect the health and safety of an animal, any animal control officer, animal cruelty investigator appointed under G.S. 19A-45, law enforcement officer, firefighter, or rescue squad worker, who has probable cause to believe that an animal is confined in a motor vehicle under conditions that are likely to cause suffering, injury, or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or under other endangering conditions, may enter the motor vehicle by any reasonable means under the circumstances after making a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person responsible for the animal.”

The National Weather Service stated, “It is NEVER safe to leave a toddler, disabled person or pet locked in a car, even in the winter. If you have a toddler in your household, lock your cars, even in your own driveway.  Kids play in cars or wander outside and get into a car and can die in 10 minutes!”

Stay safe, and help keep those around you safe!

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