Safe Kids Kansas issues summer heat safety advisory

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Every year, about 30 children die of heatstroke after being left in parked cars. Even when the outside temperature is only 80 degrees, the temperature inside a car receiving direct sunlight can reach 110 degrees after five minutes.

Cracking the windows does not prevent the temperature in the vehicle from reaching a dangerously high level. A small child's body temperature can increase three to five times as fast as an adult's. The resulting heat-related illness can cause permanent organ damage or death.

From 1998 through 2006 in the United States, at least 320 children have perished in this manner and four of those deaths took place in Kansas. Summer hasn't even started -- yet five children have already lost their lives this year after being left alone in hot vehicles.

Power windows are another source of injury for children in motor vehicles. Since 2001, at least two Kansas children have died after being strangled by power windows.

"Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a quick errand," said Safe Kids Kansas coordinator Jan Stegelman. "And don't let your child play in or around a parked car, even in your own garage or driveway."

Kids can enter an unlocked car parked at home and might not be able to get back out. Approximately one-third of child fatalities from car overheating occur when kids crawl into unlocked cars and get trapped. "Lock the doors, lock the trunk and keep the keys out of children's reach," said Stegelman.

Check to make sure all children get out of the vehicle at your destination. Don't forget sleeping babies. "Tragically, every year there are new cases of parents or caregivers forgetting and leaving small children in vehicles," said Stegelman. "You might think you could never forget that your child is with you, but if you're dropping off a child at school or day care and that's not part of your daily routine, it can happen." As a reminder get into the habit of placing your cell phone, purse or briefcase on the floor of the rear seat, near where the child is seated, to make sure you have to enter the rear seat before leaving the vehicle.

Safe Kids Kansas recommends:

* Use drive-through services when available. Use your debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump.

* Be wary of child-resistant locks. Teach older children how to unlock the doors if they unintentionally get locked in a vehicle.

* To prevent children from being locked in the trunk, ask your dealer about getting your car retrofitted with an interior trunk release.

* Hot interior surfaces can burn a child's skin. Before you put your child in a car that has been parked in a warm spot, check the temperature of the car seat or upholstery.

* If your kids do get locked in a car, get them out as quickly as possible. If he/she is hot or seems sick, call 9-1-1 immediately for follow-up assessment. If you find a child left alone in a parked car, call 9-1-1 and get some air into the car, even if you have to break a window. Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency.

Finally, note that local prosecutors can file criminal charges of child endangerment or neglect against an adult who leaves a child alone in a car -- anywhere, even for a minute.

For more information, call Safe Kids Kansas at (800) 332-6262 , or visit the Safety Tips page at or