In 2015, nine children have died nationwide after being left in hot cars, 3 were Florida children, according to the Department of Children and Families.
To prevent any more injuries or deaths, officials from four local groups, including DCF, came together to warn of the dangers of leaving kids and pets in hot cars. Their joint press conferences comes on National Heatstroke Day.
Officials noted in the past 20 years, 700 children have died after being left in hot cars nationwide. They added 53 percent of those children were mistakenly forgotten in the car by a caregiver, 29 percent of the children were playing in an unattended vehicle and 17 percent of the children were left because their parents believed it was safe.
Under Florida law, children under the age of six cannot be left in a car for any length of time if they are in distress or their health is at risk.
According to Charlene Cobb with Sunstar Paramedics, the inside of a vehicle can heat up to 125 degrees in just minutes even if the windows are slightly cracked.
She said a child’s major organs begin shutting down when their body temperature reaches 104 degrees. At 107 degrees, a child will die of heatstroke.
Cobb said a child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult’s.
CHILD CAR SAFETY TIPS
- LOOK BEFORE YOU LOCK Make a habit of opening the back door and looking in the backseat before locking the door and walking away.
- KEEP SOMETHING IN THE BACKSEAT When you get in the driver’s seat, take off your left shoe and put it in the backseat. Other options include your cell phone, laptop, lunch, ID badge or anything essential to your daily routine.
- TRAVEL WITH A STUFF ANIMAL Always keep a stuff animal in the car seat. When the baby is in the back seat, the stuff animal rides shotgun to serve as a visual reminder.
- ALWAYS LOCK THE DOOR–EVEN IN THE GARAGETeach children that a car is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach.
- HAVE A PLAN WITH A CHILDCARE PROVIDER Ask the childcare provider to call if the child doesn’t show up for care as expected.
- IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING If you see a child alone in a car, immediately call 911. If the child is showing signs of distress, remove the child from the car as quickly as possible.
Leaving pets in hot cars can also end tragically.
According to SPCA of Tampa Bay, thousands of animals die every year from heatstroke. The pets most at risk for overheating are young, elderly or overweight animals, those with short muzzles and those with thick or dark-colored coats.
Under Florida law, it is considered a form of animal neglect or cruelty if a pet is in distress, injured or dies after being intentionally left in a hot car.
SPCA officials say animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heat stroke in as little as 15 minutes. Since pets have fur, they cannot regulate their body temperature like humans by sweating. They cool themselves by panting, which is a slow process.
Heatstroke symptoms in pets include restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and lack of coordination.
Officials added that when a pet stops barking or meowing, lays down and pants heavily, they are in distress..
PET CAR SAFETY TIPS
- LEAVE YOUR PET AT HOME Unless you are traveling to a place where you know your pet with be welcome, leave them at home.
- LEAVE A/C ON IF YOU MUST LEAVE THEM In extreme situations where you must leave your pet in the car, leave the car running and the A/C on, with plans to return to the car as soon as possible.
- IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING If you see a pet alone in a hot car showing signs of distress, immediately call 911 to get the pet out of the car.
Source: ABC Action News