Prevent summertime tragedies: Never leave children unattended in vehicle

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christy Cruz
  • Chief, Family Advocacy program
Never leave children unattended in a vehicle for "just a few minutes."

It is never a good idea to leave a child or infant in an unattended car, especially during the hot Oklahoma summer months. With temperatures expected to stay in the upper 90s and triple digits, it is important to take an extra few minutes to unbuckle your children and take them with you.

It only takes three minutes to raise the temperature inside a vehicle to more than 140 degrees. According to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, when the outside temperature is 80-100 degrees, a vehicle parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures up to 172 degrees.

According to the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, since 1996 more than 225 children under the age of 3 have died in Oklahoma due to heatstroke after being left or trapped in hot vehicles. This statistic does not include the children who survived with serious injury.

Contrary to popular belief, cracking the windows does not significantly affect interior temperature. Unlike an adult, a child's body is not as capable of regulating body temperature in extreme heat. In fact, a young child's core body temperature can increase three to five times faster than an adult's.

Leaving a car running with the air conditioning on doesn't make a child any safer due to the possibility of abduction or putting the car in gear.

The Oklahoma Forget-Me-Not Vehicle Safety Act (SB- 511) states that, "A person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age or younger, shall not leave that child or vulnerable adult unattended in a motor vehicle if the conditions, including, but not limited to, extreme weather, inadequate ventilation, or hazardous or malfunctioning components within the vehicle present a risk to the health or safety of the unattended child or vulnerable adult. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor offense and shall be punished by fines, community service and or possible referral to the Department of Health Services for evaluation."

Follow these helpful tips to protect your children: 

Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even for the shortest periods, with the window slightly open or the air conditioner on. 

When parking your vehicle at home, always lock car doors and trunks. Keep the keys out of your children's reach. Teach your children that cars are not places to play. 

Make sure that all children leave the vehicle with you when you reach your destination. Don't forget sleeping infants. 

Busy parents have a lot on their minds -- so give yourself a reminder. Get in the habit of placing your purse, gym bag or other important items in the backseat next to your child's car seat. This could help prevent you from accidentally forgetting a child.

If you see a child or pet left unattended in a vehicle call 911 immediately.