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FOR RELEASE: May 23, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Kids and Hot Cars Don't Mix

Although it may seem like common sense to many, parents should be reminded that as summer temperatures rise, leaving children in parked vehicles can have deadly consequences.

"Parents who think they can leave their child in a car for just a few minutes don't understand that in those few minutes, tragedy can strike," said Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Since 1996, more than 120 children, most of them age 3 and under, have died of heat stroke after being trapped inside a parked car.

When left in a hot vehicle, a young child's core body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult, causing permanent injury or even death. For example, when the outside temperature is 93 degrees Fahrenheit, even with a window cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in just 20 minutes and about 140 degrees in 40 minutes.

"Extreme heat affects infants and small children disproportionately," said Terry Stull, M.D. at OU Children's Hospital and medical advisor for SAFE KIDS. "Heat rapidly overwhelms the body's ability to regulate temperature. In a closed environment, the body can go into shock and circulation to vital organs will begin to fail."

SAFE KIDS urges parents to be particularly vigilant about their children's safety on days when temperatures reach 80 degrees or higher, by offering the following safety precautions to combat heat-related injuries in cars:

  • Never leave your child unattended in a motor vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks - even at home - and keep keys out of reach of children.
  • Watch children closely around cars, particularly when loading or unloading items.
  • Always make sure all child passengers have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't overlook sleeping infants.

"In addition to heat stroke, vehicles pose other threats to children. Kids have been injured by power windows, have been accidentally abducted during car-jackings and have been injured by putting the car into gear, then trying to climb out. The bottom line is that a vehicle is not a safe place to leave a child - even for a moment," said Collar.


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