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Posted on: May 4, 2020

Keeping Our Families Safe: Don’t Leave Kids and Pets Behind in a Parked Car

MCAO Vehicular Heatstroke Campaign Artwork

Temperatures have recently reached over 100 degrees and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office wants to remind you to never leave a child or pet in a parked car. In May, we launch our “Don’t Leave Me Behind” Vehicular Heatstroke campaign. You’ll hear public service announcements on the radio and see ads online to help raise awareness that kids and pets die in hot cars.

“Losing a child or a pet in a hot car is a heartbreaking tragedy that is 100% preventable,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. “As a community, we can work together to make sure that not one more life is lost. To caregivers, I urge increased vigilance, and to others, if you see a child or animal alone in a parked car, take action!”

Vehicular heatstroke is the number one cause of death in non-collision fatalities for children 14 and younger, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since 1998, 705 children have died nationwide, 40 of those were in Arizona.

The risk of vehicular heatstroke can occur in air temperatures of 80 degrees or less, and even as low as 57 degrees. Interior temperatures can quickly rise to 125 degrees even with the windows slightly rolled down. More than half of cases occur because a parent or caregiver forget that the child is in the car. Often, this is due to a change in routine, or the adult is not the regular caregiver, such as a grandparent or other relative. While many times it is a terrible mistake, the death will be investigated by law enforcement and charges could be brought if criminal negligence or intent is found.

TIPS FOR PREVENTION

  • Never leave a child or pet alone in a parked car – even with the windows rolled down or air conditioning on.
  • Always check the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.
  • Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Always lock your vehicle doors and trunk and keep the keys out of a child’s reach. If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.
  • If dropping a child off is not part of your normal routine, take steps to remind yourself that the child is in the car:
    • Place a briefcase, purse or something you need to take with you in the back seat next to the car seat so that you’ll always check the back seat before you leave the car.
    • Write a note and place it on the dashboard of the car, or set a reminder on your cell phone or calendar. You can also download the Baby Reminder App for iPhones.
    • Instruct your daycare provider to call you if your child does not show up.

If you see a child or pet alone in a hot vehicle:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Under Arizona law, it is permissible to rescue a child or pet from a parked car under certain circumstances if you believe their life is in danger:
    • First, call 911
    • You are allowed to gain access to the car, such as by breaking the window
    • You must stay on the scene until authorities arrive

For additional information and safety tips, visit our MCAO Vehicular Heatstroke webpage at MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/VehicularHeatstroke

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