LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC/AP) — Two children in the region have died so far this summer after being left in cars. At least one dog has suffered the same fate.
While there are no national statistics for pets that die from being left in vehicles, the advocacy group Kids and Cars says at least 27 children in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have died of heatstroke in cars since 1990.
On July 5, 32-year-old Zoraida Magali Conde Hernandez’s son sat in her car for six hours while she was at work. After being arrested at Inova Alexandria Hospital, where she brought the 8-month-old boy for treatment when she found him unresponsive, Hernandez told police she didn’t realize until it was too late that she hadn’t dropped him off at daycare. The high temperature that day was 90 degrees. She was charged with felony child neglect.
On the same day, in the Baltimore area, 16-month-old Sabriya Towels was left in a truck by a relative who was caring for her. Investigators told WJZ that he, too, forgot to drop the child at daycare that morning. Charges were not immediately filed against the man.
It turns out, simply forgetting that a child is in the car is a common mistake when it comes to this tragic set of statistics. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration review of child hyperthermia cases found that most fatalities happen because of a change in the driver’s routine.
Precautions the NHTSA suggests include: having a spouse or partner call you to make sure daycare or school drop off went according to plan if they are the one who usually transports the child; inspecting your vehicle front to back before walking away from it; asking your childcare provider to call you if your child is not dropped off; or placing a necessary item like a purse or briefcase in the back seat next to the child.
While being fatally forgetful is not uncommon, neither are reports of parents and pet owners knowingly leaving their children or animals in the car while they run errands and the like.
But even on days with relatively mild weather, car interiors can reach triple-digit temperatures very quickly. WeatherBug meteorologist Jacob Wycoff published a YouTube video Wednesday that aims to show viewers just how dangerous they can be. He spent a half hour in his turned-off vehicle with the windows rolled up. After just 30 minutes, the inside of his car was 125 degrees and he was beginning to show signs of heatstroke.
Heatstroke, he said, usually occurs when the body temperature goes above 104 degrees. And he reminds viewers that a child’s core temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s.
According to PETA, animals can suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes inside a hot vehicle.
Video courtesy of WeatherBug meteorologist Jacob Wycoff
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