Most of us know the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a car in the harsh Arkansas summer, but how many of us realize children often climb into an unlocked vehicle to play or explore? Since 1996, at least 175 children have died of heat stroke after being trapped inside a parked car. That’s why it’s important to keep car doors and trunks locked even when the vehicle is parked at home.
Remember, when the outside temperature is 93 degrees Fahrenheit, even with a window cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit in just 20 minutes and almost 140 degrees in 40 minutes. In these extreme conditions, children can die or suffer permanent disability quickly — in a matter of minutes.
The Arkansas SAFE KIDS Coalition and the National SAFE KIDS Campaign are issuing an urgent warning to parents and caregivers to take extra precautions with children in and around vehicles during the summer months.
According to a recent survey by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, 10 percent of parents report that young children can be left in a car unattended. Among parents between the ages of 18 and 24, twice as many contend that it is okay to leave a child alone in a vehicle.
Extreme heat rapidly overwhelms the body’s ability to regulate temperature. In a closed environment, the body can go into shock and circulation to vital organs will begin to fail. Infants and small children are particularly vulnerable due to their body configuration.
The SAFE KIDS survey also found that only 50 percent of parents always lock their cars at home and one out of five parents rarely or never does so. Unlocked cars pose serious risks to children who are naturally curious and often lack fear. Once they crawl in, they don’t know how to get out.
You can fight heat-related injuries in cars this summer by staying alert and following these child safety tips:
– Keep cars locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway.
– Teach children not to play in or around cars.
– Never leave your child in an unattended car, even with the windows down.
– Make sure you check the temperature of the car seat surface and safety belt buckles before restraining your children in the car.
– Use a light covering to shade the seat of your parked car. Consider using window shades in front and back windows.
– Keep the trunk of your car locked at all times, especially when the car is parked in the driveway or near the home.
– Put car keys out of children’s reach and sight.
The Arkansas SAFE KIDS Coalition is co-sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.