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Editorial: Cars are not babysitters

Summer heat brings some of the most heart-breaking news stories of the year ó stories of children who die when left too long in hot vehicles. Don’t let it happen in your family.
Sometimes parents forget, sometimes they push the limit, sometimes they’re just neglectful. Regardless of the reason for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, the results are the same on any sunny day. The air in the vehicle heats up fast ó going up 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes, 29 degrees after 20 minutes, and so on.
When summer temperatures are in the 90s, the temperature in a car can reach more than 109 degrees in a matter of minutes, according to Safe Kids North Carolina.
That sets the stage for hyperthermia.
A child left in such a situation may experience dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness, rapid heart beat, hallucinations … and death.
Since 1998, at least 432 children in the United States died of hyperthermia, including 18 in North Carolina.
Nationwide there have already been 19 such deaths this year, most in the Southeast. That includes a North Carolina case which proves summer is not the only dangerous season. A Haw River child died of hyperthermia in a vehicle in March.
Tragedy does not result just from a caregiver leaving an infant in a car. Sometimes older children decide to play in a car and manage to get themselves locked in.
San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences passes along these safety recommendations:
– Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle for even a minute.
– Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping babies.
– Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices. If a child is missing, check the car first, including the trunk. Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
– Keep a stuffed animal in the carseat and when the child is put in the seat place the animal in the front with the driver.
– Or place your purse or briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
– Make “look before you leave” a routine whenever you get out of the car.
– Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up for school.
Vehicles are not babysitters or play areas. Parents and other caregivers need to get the message.
A hot vehicle is also a dangerous place for pets. SafeKids North Carolina suggests calling 911 if you see a child or a pet unattended in a vehicle. Your call could save a life.

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