Beware dangers for kids in cars

Published 7:44 pm Friday, August 1, 2014

Nearly every week during the summer, a child dies in a hot car, after either being left there — accidentally or intentionally — by a caregiver or becoming trapped while playing in the car.

AAA Tidewater is joining SafeKids, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and General Motors in strongly cautioning parents, caregivers and motorists not to leave children alone in closed vehicles and not to allow children to play in or around cars and trucks.

According to SafeKids, a child dies from heatstroke every 10 days from being left alone in a hot vehicle.

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AAA Tidewater reminds parents and caregivers that children can die within minutes inside a hot vehicle, and Virginia law makes it illegal to leave children unattended in a vehicle.

“Make ‘look and check the back seat for children before you leave the car’ a routine whenever you exit a vehicle,” said Georjeane Blumling, vice president of public affairs for AAA Tidewater.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children 14 and younger.

Nationwide 619 children have died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles since 1998, with 13 deaths thus far in 2014. Last year, 44 children died from heat stroke after being left in unattended vehicles.

“We think that we’re only going to be inside a store for a few minutes, but children under age 4 are the most at-risk for having their lives endangered by being left in a hot car,” said Blumling. “Children should not be left in a car by an adult, or forgotten because of an adult’s distraction. If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately.”

Shaded parking, cracking windows open and tinted windows don’t reduce the interior temperature of a closed car, according to pediatric researchers. Doctors warn that if it’s a 90-degree day, it could be at least a life-threatening 130 degrees inside a car within minutes. A child’s body isn’t as efficient as an adult’s and warms 3-5 times faster, leading to dehydration and heatstroke.

AAA urges motorists to:

Immediately call 9-1-1- if you notice a child unattended in a car.

Never leave car keys or car remote where children can get to them.

Always keep doors and windows locked to prevent kids from playing inside a vehicle.

Never leave a child unattended in a car, even if windows are tinted, cracked open or down.

Develop “look before leaving” routines. Ensure all kids exit the vehicle at your destination.

Create an electronic device reminder to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare.

Leave something needed for the day in the back seat with your baby — a briefcase, purse or shoes.

Develop a daycare drop-off plan so that if your child is late or isn’t at daycare, you’ll be called within a few minutes. Some children have been left in office parking lots by distracted adults forgetting to drop them off at day care.

If a child is missing, check the pool first, if you have one. Make the car, including the trunk, the next place you look.

Teach children that the car is not a play area.

Don’t treat heatstroke at home with cold water or cooling the child in a tub of water. Only a specialist should treat heatstroke. Seek medical treatment immediately.