Jessamine County Coroner

Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car

Having the pleasure and opportunity to attend the State Child Fatality Review Meeting in Frankfort in June, I was allowed to participate in a discussion on the “Safe Kids USA” program.  While there are so many safety issues for our children during the summertime, one being focused on now is heat stroke deaths caused by children left alone in cars.  These deaths occur when a child is left unattended in a car and the temperature inside the car rises to dramatic temperatures. Susan Pollack, M.D., is a pediatrician and coordinator for Kentucky’s “State Safe Kids Coalition”.  In recent articles, Dr. Pollack highlighted some of the following facts about car-induced heat strokes .  In 2010, Safe Kids USA started a hyperthermia-prevention initiative (not to be confused with hypothermia) and invited Kentucky to join this year.  The goal is to prevent hyperthermia-related child fatalities in Kentucky.  Last year a record 49 children (including three from Kentucky) died after being left alone in cars.  Since 2004, Kentucky has lost 13 children in hot cars, at least one every year.  On June 1st Safe Kids announced the 500th child death nationwide due to heat stroke from being left alone in a vehicle.  As of June 28th there have been 16 children die in 2011 from being left alone and trunk entrapment.  How do these things happen?  About half of hot-car-related deaths occur when parents have a change in their normal routine and forget a baby, who is often left sleeping quietly in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the car.  Or a different parent or care-giver is responsible for taking the child in the car, and forgets the sleeping child.  Never intentionally leave a child in the car, even with the windows down, while you run a quick errand.  More than half of child heat stroke deaths occur because parents and caregivers become distracted and exit their vehicle without their child (ask me later to tell you about a pet I once lost this way!). Most of us don’t realize that even on a cool day with a breeze and windows open, a car can heat up by as much as 9 degrees in the first 19 minutes.   Prevention might therefore be best accomplished through reminders, especially passive ones.  Place purse, briefcase or backpack on the back seat floor where you will see the baby when you retrieve it.  Hang a homemade brightly colored sign or toy on the review mirror when a child or infant is in the back seat.  If you hurriedly leave the vehicle, you will probably notice the sign or toy and be reminded of the child.  Immediately dial 911 if you see an unattended child in a car. If a child should become locked in a car, Pop A Lock will come without charge to let a child out anywhere they provide coverage.

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