FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. - At least twelve children have died across the nation so far this year after being left in hot vehicles, says AAA.
The latest tragedy happened Tuesday in Fairfax County after a five-year-old was found dead in a vehicle. Police say the child was left inside of the car for several hours. Earlier in the day a parent drove the child and several young siblings home. They say the siblings got out of the vehicle but the five-year-old was left inside, strapped into a car seat. At this time, police say it appears like a terrible accident.
AAA says nearly 1,000 children have died in hot cars nationwide in the past three decades for an average of 39 children each year. AAA also says that hot car deaths involving children rise as the temperature rises. In the D.C. region, temperatures were in the 90s Tuesday and are expected to remain there on Wednesday. The heat and humidity could push the heat index values to between 100 and 105 degrees.
AAA says studies have shown that about 56 percent of child hot car deaths in vehicles were caused by adults forgetting the children. They say 26 percent of victims were playing in an unattended vehicle.
AAA Mid-Atlantic's John Townsend says that on Tuesday, the Senate approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that includes a series of measures requiring new cars to be equipped with technology system to keep children from being accidentally left in vehicles on hot days.
"In the summer heat, and during the dog days of summer, a vehicle's interior can reach lethal temperatures very quickly, essentially creating an oven, causing a child's internal organs to shut down if left unattended inside," said Townsend. "Young children should never be left alone in a vehicle under any circumstances. The same is true for pets. Make it a routine to look twice and check the back seat before you leave and lock the car. If you have to put a reminder note on your dashboard, an alarm on your phone or a stuffed animal in the front seat to remember to take a child out of the car, do it."
Townsend added that a child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than adults and when the body's temperature reaches 104 degrees -- internal organs begin to shut down.
Tips for Parents, Grandparents, Guardians, Caregivers, and Child Care Providers:
Set an alarm on your phone to go off around the time you usually arrive to work to remind you to check the back seat.
Arrange for day care or school to check in if your child doesn't show up as expected.
Leave your purse, phone or diaper bag in the back seat as a visual cue to check for your child before exiting.
Keep a stuffed animal in your child's car seat. When the child is with you, move it to the front seat as a reminder that your child is in the back.
Place a reminder sticker on your windshield, dashboard or driver's side window —wherever you'll notice it—to remind yourself.
Remove your kids from the car first and then worry about getting everything else out.
If you see a child or pet alone in the car, call 911 immediately and follow the instructions of emergency.
Tips for Keeping Kids Out of Cars:
Get in the habit of always locking your car doors and trunk, year-round.
Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
Keep car keys out of a child's reach.
If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.
If You are a Bystander and See a Child in a Hot Vehicle:
Make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
If the child appears to be okay, attempt to locate the parents or have the facility's security or management page the car owner over the PA system.
If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.
If the child is not responsive or appears to be in distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child—even if that means breaking a window.
Many states have "Good Samaritan" laws, including Maryland, that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.