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Daily Newscasts

Tennessee's Heat + Kids Alone in Cars = Deadly Combination

July 9, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee has had a string of hot, humid days this week, and as the heat rises, so do instances of children dying by hyperthermia, or "heat stroke," because they are left in a vehicle unattended. According to Lorrie Walker, a training manager and technical advisor for Safe Kids USA, that is the leading cause of non-traffic deaths for kids, and since the beginning of this year, 20 children have died because they were left to over-heat in a car.

Walker says it doesn't have to be a scorcher of a day to be dangerous, because the temperature in a car can go up much higher than it is outside - and it only continues to rise with time. For children, she says the effects are far worse than for adults.

"A child's body temperature heats up three to five times faster than that of an adult. So, an adult might be able to sit in there and just be hot, but not be dangerously overheated, where a young child is in danger."

It is not safe to leave a child in a vehicle, even if a window is cracked, says Walker. However, children are left in vehicles for a variety of reasons; sometimes adults think it will only be for a minute or two and become distracted; sometimes kids wander into unlocked cars themselves. Some adults think it's safe to do, she adds.

"The car is not a babysitter, and it's not a recreation area. There's no good that can come from leaving a child alone in a car, for any amount of time, ever."

Leaving a child in a car is not always intentional, Walker admits: about half of the cases involve parents or caregivers who are super-busy, and simply become very distracted.

"They're thinking about what they need to do next and they don't even give the back seat a second thought. They pull up where they're going, shut off the car, lock the door, and head off to the office or school or wherever it is they're headed."

Safe Kids USA recommends ways to remind yourself to think of the children in the back seat: leave your wallet, purse or cell - whatever needs to go with you that day - next to the child seat, or set an alarm on your cell phone or PDA to remind you to drop off the kids at day care or school.

Randy O'Brien, Public News Service - TN