Children left in unattended cars can be deadly

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 2, 2000

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’s OK to leave a child alone in a vehicle. 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 approximately 140 degrees in 40 minutes. In these extreme conditions, children can die or suffer permanent disability quickly — in a matter of minutes.

The SAFE KIDS survey also found that only 50 percent of parents always lock their cars at home and one of out of five parents rarely or never does so. More than half of the deaths reported this year occurred when children crawled into unlocked cars while playing and perished in the sweltering heat. Unlocked cars pose serious risks to children who are naturally curious and often lack fear. Once they crawl in, they don’t have the developmental capability to get out.

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The Campaign warns parents to be especially vigilant about their children’s safety during the remaining summer days by offering the following safety precautions to combat heat-

related injuries in cars:

— 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.

— If your child gets locked inside a car, dial 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.

— 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 windshield shades in front and back windows.

Car trunks can be especially hazardous. Kids get in but can’t always get out. In very hot weather, heat stroke may result and could lead to permanent disability or even death in a matter of minutes.

— Keep the trunk of your car locked at all times, especially when parked in the driveway or near the home.

— Keep the rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent kids from getting into the from inside the car.

— Put car keys out of children’s reach and sight.

— Be wary of child-resistant locks. Teach children how to disable the driver’s door locks if they unintentionally become entrapped in a motor vehicle.

— Contact your automobile dealership about getting your vehicle retrofitted with a trunk release mechanism.

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign and General Motors have introduced a new educational guide entitled &uot;Trunks Are For Elephants, Not For Kids,&uot; to help educate the public about the dangers of trunk entrapment in hot weather as well as other hazards parked cars may pose to children. For a free copy, visit your local General Motors dealership or write to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004. For more information, visit the Campaign’s website at