An ongoing study by San Francisco State University estimates that since 1998, there have been 615 heatstroke deaths of children left in vehicles, an average of 38 deaths per year. Most of those deaths were children under the age of two-years.
In 2000, Kentucky passed “Bryan’s Law,” which makes a person liable for second-degree manslaughter or first-degree wanton endangerment for leaving a child younger than eight years of age in a motor vehicle where circumstances pose a grave risk of death. The law was named after 11-month old Bryan Puckett, who died July 13, 1999 after being left in a hot car by his babysitter.
KSP spokesman Sgt. Michael Webb says most people know the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car, but each year these senseless tragedies continue to occur.
“A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than that of an adult,” says Webb. “The temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes. Together, this can be deadly in a very short period of time.”
Kentucky’s last reported death from a child being left in a car was during 2012 in Louisville. The NSC reports that 44 children died last year from vehicular heatstroke in the U.S.
Webb offers the following safety tips:
- Never leave a child in an unattended car, even with the windows down.
- Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don't overlook sleeping babies.
- Always lock your car. If a child is missing, check the car first, including the trunk. Teach your children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
- Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and when the child is put in the seat place the animal in the front with the driver as a reminder.
- Place your purse or briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
- Make ‘look before you leave’ a routine whenever you get out of the car.
KSP asks citizens to keep an eye out for children left in vehicles on hot days and to call 911 if they think the occupant is in danger.