A family is coping with the death of a 1-year-old left inside a car for more than an hour in a Pinecrest driveway Monday afternoon, a tragic loss that underscores the dangers of leaving a child in extreme heat.
Even in milder temperatures, a car can become a greenhouse that traps heat inside and creates deadly conditions that could cause heat stroke.
Last year, 39 children died nationwide after being left in a car. Florida is second only to Texas in the number of heat-related deaths linked to being left in a car.
“A lot of people are surprised when we tell them this can happen when the temperature is in the high 50s and 60s,” said Jannette Fennell, president and founder of kidsandcars.org. Her organization tracks these types of incidents and raises public awareness to prevent future tragedies.
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Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths in children under 15, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Extreme heat is particularly dangerous for a child, whose body can heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s body.
A child’s major organs begin to shut down when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees.
It doesn’t need to be a hot summer day outside for a car to heat up so quickly.
“Every 10 minutes, it can spike as much as 20 degrees,” Fennell said.
Preventing child deaths in hot cars
▪ Make it a routine to open the back door of your car every time you park.
▪ Put something in the back seat to remind you to open the back door every time you park — cellphone, employee badge, handbag, etc.
▪ Keep a stuffed animal in baby’s car seat. Place it in front seat as a reminder when a baby is in the back seat.
▪ Ask your babysitter or child care provider to call you if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
▪ Make sure children cannot get into a parked car. Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway. Keys and remote openers should never be left within reach of children.