The Department of Public Welfare today reminded Pennsylvanians that they must not leave children alone in cars or let them play in vehicles, even for a moment. A few short minutes could be deadly; it is also illegal.
“As the summer temperatures rise, and in response to unfortunate recent events, we want Pennsylvania residents to remember that a car is not a safe place for a child to be alone,” Department of Public Welfare (DPW) Secretary Beverly Mackereth said. “Unfortunately, 13 children have died of heatstroke in cars in the United States so far this year and we’ve heard of several life-threatening situations in Pennsylvania just this past week.”
The children who have died from vehicular heatstroke in the last 15 years across the nation have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years.
Even with windows partly down or on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise to deadly levels within minutes. A child can suffer heatstroke when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees, and a child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s.
DPW recommends parents and adults taking care of children should establish habits to ensure a child is never in the car alone by:
- Keeping their purse, wallet or cell phone in the back of the car so they must open the back door before walking away.
- Putting a reminder such as a stuffed animal in the front seat when a child is in the back.
- Always checking the back seat before locking the car.
- Always locking the car and keeping car keys out of children’s reach so kids can’t let themselves into the car without an adult knowing.
- Having the daycare provider or spouse check in with the driver if the child isn’t at daycare or home as expected.
In Pennsylvania it is illegal to leave a child in a car if the car is not within sight and the child’s safety or health is compromised. Anyone who sees a child unattended in a car should call 911 immediately and stay with the vehicle.