During the first week of June, Kentucky State Police are sending a plea to parents and caregivers with ‘Keeping Kids Cool’, a statewide initiative to provide awareness about leaving children in hot cars. It may seem like common sense, but statistics show that these deaths are continuing to happen across the U.S.
According to the National Safety Council, 52 children died in 2019 of vehicular heatstroke and Kentucky accounted for two of those. One child in Texas has already died this year from being left in a hot car. Since 1998, there have been 850 child-related vehicular heatstroke deaths in the United States. These include instances where a child has been forgotten in a car, accidentally locks themselves in a vehicle or, in a small number of cases, when a child has been intentionally left in a car.
KSP Sgt. Josh Lawson said the most common reason children are left in a hot car is the parent or caregiver forget they are there. A majority of parents are misinformed and like to believe they could never ‘forget’ about their child.
“As both a trooper and a father, I can’t emphasize enough the danger involved with hyperthermia,” said Lawson. “None of us want to believe that we would get so distracted with our day or other activities that we would exit our vehicle without our child. But it happens and it happens too often.”
Lawson continues to say that it can be a matter of minutes before a child is in distress from being left in a hot car.
“Temperatures inside a car can rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes,” adds Lawson. “When you combine that with a warm weather day and the facts that a child’s body heats up 3-5 times faster than adult, you have a recipe for disaster.”
In 2000, Kentucky passed “Bryan’s Law,” which makes a person liable for second-degree manslaughter or first-degree wanton endangerment for leaving a child younger than eight years of age in a motor vehicle where circumstances pose a grave risk of death. The law was named after 11-month old Bryan Puckett, who died July 13, 1999, after being left in a hot car by his babysitter.
Lawson offers the following safety tips:
- Look before you lock. Make this a priority and a habit.
- Never leave a child in an unattended car, even with the windows down.
- Make it a habit of opening the rear door of the car every time you park to ensure no one is left inside.
- To enforce this habit, place an item that you can’t start your day without, such as a purse, briefcase, employee badge, phone, etc.
- When at home, keep your vehicle locked at all times, even in the garage.
- Never leave keys within reach of children.
- If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all vehicles in the area.
KSP asks citizens to keep an eye out for children left in vehicles on hot days and to call 911 if they see an unaccompanied child in distress.