With hot spring and summer temperatures having arrived, parents and other child caregivers must raise their awareness of the importance of never leaving children inside unattended vehicles. The temperature inside a parked vehicle can quickly reach lethal levels in hot, or even warm, weather. Babies and other young children, and pets as well, are not able to escape a hot vehicle on their own.
The Roswell Police Department and Roswell Fire Department remind everyone all it takes is a brief distraction, or trying to hurry through a busy day, or dealing with stress or other emotions to cause a parent or other caretaker to exit a vehicle without thinking about a child who was along on the trip. Don’t let a moment of forgetfulness turn into a tragedy. Take whatever steps necessary to remember a child is with you, and certainly never knowingly leave a child in the car for even just what you think will be a short time.
In the spring and summer, temperatures in Roswell and throughout this part of New Mexico can regularly reach into the 80s and 90s, and at times may draw close to and surpass 100 degrees. And it doesn’t even take that much outdoor heat to create a dangerous situation inside a closed vehicle. With an outside temperature of just 80 degrees, the inside of a closed-up vehicle can quickly reach near 140 degrees, according to researchers.
Under the spring and summer sun, it takes only 10 minutes for the temperature in a vehicle to rise 20 degrees. And leaving a window open a crack or parking in the shade aren’t sufficient safeguards. Trapped inside a vehicle, a child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s. A child usually dies from heatstroke when his or her body temperature reaches 107 degrees, according to experts.
Sadly, nationwide there were 39 heatstroke deaths of children in hot vehicles in 2016 and there have been nine such deaths through May this year. Since 1998, the nation has averaged an annual total of 37 heatstroke deaths of children in hot vehicles. From 1998 through 2016, New Mexico has recorded nine of those deaths, placing the state 10th in the country on the list of most deaths per capita when it comes to child heatstroke in vehicles.
Most parents cannot imagine themselves leaving, even accidentally, their child in a hot vehicle. Yet statistics show more than half of the instances of child deaths in hot vehicles occurred after the child was accidentally or unknowingly left in the vehicle. Remember, young children, especially babies, often fall asleep in their car seats, becoming quiet little passengers. For babies in rear-facing child seats, their seats – whether occupied or not – look the same when seen by someone in the front seat.
The second most common instance of children dying in hot vehicles is when children get into the vehicle on their own, thinking it would be a fun spot to play or simply satisfy their curiosity. Never leave children alone in and around vehicles, lock vehicles when you leave them, and do not leave keys or remote door openers where a child can get them.
Here are some other tips from KidsandCars.org:
> Put something you’ll need to take with you from the vehicle – cell phone, purse, brief case, ID – on the floorboard in the back seat. It will force you to pay attention to what – and perhaps who – is in the back of the vehicle.
> If you and the child usually travel without other passengers, keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that the child is in the child safety seat.
> Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind.
> When a child is missing, check inside vehicles and vehicle trunks immediately.
> If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 immediately.