Children Left in Vehicles

The Springfield Police Department receives numerous calls during the summer about kids being left alone in cars. This is a continuing problem here in Springfield. I found this article written by Sgt. Brent J. Bernhardt, PIO Officer for Troop B, Macon, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and thought the information was important enough to pass along.

Do Not Leave Children Unattended
Leaving children unattended in or around vehicles is a serious problem. Results can include injuries or death caused by heat stroke, a vehicle being put in motion by a child, children being hit by vehicles backing up, children choking while alone in the car, being kidnapped, toxic fumes, or being trapped in car trunks.

Dangers of the Heat
Small children and infants are much more sensitive than adults to extreme heat. Heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees and heat stroke can occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees. When the outside temperature is 93 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in just 20 minutes, and 140 degrees in 40 minutes even if a window is cracked open. A car parked in direct sunlight can reach 131 to 172 degrees in only 15 minutes. When a child is enclosed in a hot car, the child loses body fluids and salts through sweating, causing heat exhaustion. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. A child suffering heat stroke can no longer sweat. The body temperature rises to deadly levels leading to severe damage to the brain, liver, kidneys, or even death.

Many reported child deaths involve children who crawled into unlocked cars during play and then died in the sweltering heat. Once a child gets into a vehicle, they often lack the developmental skills to get themselves out again.

Vehicle Trunks
Another hazard involves vehicle trunks. As more and more cars come equipped with remote trunk releases, trunk openers on key chains, and access to the trunk through fold down seats, it becomes easier for children to gain access. Often unintentional entrapment is the result. Car trunks can provide the deadly combination of high temperature, high humidity, and poor ventilation.

Prevent Accidents
Use these tips to help prevent accidents involving children in and around vehicles. Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway, and do not leave your car keys within reach or sight of children. Teach children not to play in or around vehicles. Always make sure that all child passengers have left the car after it is parked. Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, even to run a quick errand. Teach children how to unlock a vehicle’s door locks in case they unintentionally become trapped inside a vehicle. Keep rear, fold-down seats closed to help prevent children from getting into the trunk from inside the car. If a child is missing, be sure to check all vehicles and car trunks immediately.

If you see young children in a car unattended, try to find the parents immediately or call a law enforcement agency for help. Taking immediate action could save a child from serious harm or even death.