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Newsroom

Jun 19, 2009
Hot Weather, Unattended Vehicles Can Prove Deadly for Children

With the official beginning of summer only days away and daily temperatures across Louisiana hovering in the mid to upper 90s, the Department of Children & Family Services (DSS) reminds parents of the deadly consequences of leaving a child unattended in a car.

Between 1989 and 2009, DSS has reported 13 children in Louisiana dying from hyperthermia (heat stroke) as a result of being left in unattended vehicles.

"To ensure the health and safety of children, never leave a child unattended in a car for any amount of time. Temperatures in cars can rise very quickly to dangerous levels, even on cooler days and especially during the summertime" said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "The risks of leaving a child unattended in a car are simply too great.  Heat stroke can be deadly, and leaving the engine and air conditioner on creates other potential hazards for children, such as accidentally shifting the car into drive or getting caught is a power window.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that even with the windows of car opened two inches the interior temperature can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.  This means that on hot Louisiana days, the temperature inside a car put anyone left inside at risk for serious heat-related illnesses or even death. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who are left unattended in parked cars are at greatest risk for heat stroke, and possibly death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following safety tips:
  • Teach children not to play in, on or around vehicles.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open or with the engine running and the air conditioning on.
  • Always lock an unattended vehicle's doors and trunk - especially at home. Keep keys and remote entry devices out of children's reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
  • Check to ensure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination. Don't overlook sleeping infants.
  • If you are bringing your child to daycare when it is not part of your normal routine, have your spouse call you to make sure everything went according to plan.
  • Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for childcare. Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as:
    • Writing yourself a note and putting the note where you will see it when you leave the vehicle;
    • Placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle; or
    • Keeping an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she is leaving the vehicle.
  • If a child is in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Warning signs may include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea or acting strangely. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
DSS also reminds parents that when properly restraining children in a car that has been parked in the heat, check to make sure seating surfaces and equipment (car seats and seat belt buckles) are not excessively hot.

Louisiana is one of 14 states with laws against leaving children unattended in a vehicle.  A first offense will net a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment of up to than six months, or both. For subsequent offenses, the fine ranges between $1,000 and $5,000 with jail time of not less than one year or more than two years, or both.

If you see a child left unattended in a vehicle, contact local law enforcement or dial 911.


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