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Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) recently responded to a call of a child left in a vehicle outside a shopping center. Upon arrival, the parent had already removed the child from the car. Upon checking the temperature inside the vehicle, it registered between 102-108 degrees. Fire and Medical responded to check on the child and the child was deemed healthy, but sweaty and upset. The parent was taken into custody and booked while the other parent collected the child. In this situation, the parent knowingly left the child in the car; in 50% of situations children are unknowingly left in cars. Fortunately bystanders noticed the child and this situation was quickly, and safely, resolved. However, everyone has heard of situations where the result of a child left in a hot car turned out to be fatal as a result of the child succumbing to Vehicular Heat Stroke.
Vehicular heat stroke is largely misunderstood by the general public.
The Greenhouse Effect in Vehicles • The inside of a vehicle heats up VERY quickly! Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in minutes. • Cracking the windows does not help slow the heating process OR decrease the maximum temperature • 80% of the increase in temperature happens in the first 10 minutes • Children have died from heatstroke in cars in temps as low as 60 degrees.
Contributing Factors • A child’s body overheats 3-5 times faster than an adult body. • Change in normal daily routine, lack of sleep, stress, fatigue, distractions, hormone changes, worry… symptoms that ALL new parents experience! • Rear-facing car seats look the same whether there is a baby in it or not. • Children, especially babies, often fall asleep in their rear-facing child safety seats; becoming quiet, unobtrusive little passengers.
Prevention / Safety Tips
KidsAndCars.org believes the solution to these preventable tragedies is a combination of education and technology. KidsAndCars.org would like all vehicles to come equipped with a system that would alert a driver if a child has been left in the vehicle. Below are some simple tips parents and caregivers can follow to prevent heat stroke tragedies.
• Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute. • “Look Before You Lock” - Get in the habit of always opening the back door to check the back seat before leaving your vehicle. Make sure no child has been left behind. • Create a reminder to check the back seat. • Put something you'll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park. o Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It's a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat. • Make sure you have a strict policy in place with your childcare provider about daycare drop-off. Everyone involved in the care of your child should always be aware of their whereabouts. If your child will not be attending daycare as scheduled, it is the parent’s responsibility to call and inform the childcare provider. If your child does not show up as scheduled; and they have not received a call from the parent, the childcare provider pledges to contact you immediately to ensure the safety of your child. (this is very similar to the ‘absence-line’ used by most elementary, middle and high schools) • Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, child care providers and neighbors to do the same. • Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children. • If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside passenger compartments and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked. A child may lock the car doors after entering a vehicle on their own, but may not be able to unlock them. • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. • Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays. This is when many tragedies occur. • Use drive-thru services when available (restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc.) and pay for gas at the pump.
Please share these important safety tips with your childcare providers, teachers, relatives, friends, family and neighbors… It could save a life!
If you have any questions about this article, or other public safety issues, please contact the AJPD Community Resource Coordinator at (480) 474-5442 or email@example.com.