Turning up the heat on careless parents
According to Safe Kids Pitt County, in 2013, 43 children died in the U.S. from heat stroke due to being left in a hot car. This year alone, 16 deaths have been the result of children being left in a vehicle unattended. These statistics, along with prevention methods and demonstrations were shared with those who attended.
“We were really targeting caregivers and parents just to remind them the things to do in order to, even though their schedules are busy and their mind is overwhelmed, to be able to remind themselves that a priceless possession is in the car with them,” said Christy Wallace, Pitt County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.
One demonstration that took place acted as a visual aid to help visitors see how quickly cars can heat up. A tray of s’mores was placed on the dashboard of a car while a thermometer read the inside and the outside temperature as the treats were cooking. With the outside temperature reaching 98 degrees, the inside of the car heated up to 148 degrees in less than 20 minutes.
“We used a visual with the s’mores because people think you have to have a fire to cook them, but we cooked them on the dash of a car,” said Ellen Walston, Injury Prevention Coordinator and Safe Kids Pitt County Coordinator. “We show that because people think ‘I know it gets hot in a car, I can crack a window’ but it doesn’t make a difference.”
Walston says that a main cause of children and pets being left in cars is forgetfulness.
“The other message that we are trying to help people see is it can happen to anyone. We’re all distracted and you can forget,” Walston said.
In an effort to reduce the chances of forgetfulness, visitors were given tips on how to avoid deaths or injury from occurring. Parents and caregivers are asked to place something that will be needed upon exiting the car in the backseat where the child is sitting. It is also suggested that a phone reminder is set as well.
Walston says events like this are important, “mainly to prevent tragedies because these are preventable deaths and injuries and it’s just to make people aware and to really realize that it could happen to them.”
Walston and Wallace both strongly recommend immediately calling 9-1-1 or animal control if a child or animal is seen unattended in a vehicle. If immediate action is not taken, serious injury or death can occur.
“We need to remember that a child in a car, a dog in our car, needs to be treated as we would want to be treated,” said Wallace.