The San Joaquin Valley heat continues to beat down on the streets of Bakersfield and Kern County. It’s important to be as safe as possible when outside, and remember Kaitlyn’s Law if you’re driving with young ones in your vehicle.
Kaitlyn’s Law was adopted in 2002 following the death of 6-month-old Kaitlyn Russell. She was left unattended in 100 degree heat by her babysitter for several hours and was later found dead. Kaitlyn’s Law makes it illegal for children ages 6 years or younger to be left unattended in a vehicle without supervision of a person who is 12 years or older when:
- There are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety;
- And when the vehicle’s engine is running and/or the vehicle’s key is in the ignition.
As temperatures in Bakersfield continue to remain in triple digits and high double digits, the risk of vehicular hyperthermia, or heat stroke remains – especially when young children are left unattended in vehicles. Regardless of how or why a child is left behind, the end result can be devastating, the Bakersfield Police Department states in a recently released advisory.
Studies have shown that within 20 minutes, air temperature in a small car exposed to the sun on a 95-degree day exceeded 122 degrees inside of the vehicle. Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 150° degrees. Leaving a window slightly opened or cracked did little to prevent the temperature from rising to a level dangerous for children, vulnerable adults and pets, according to Bakersfield Police Department. No matter what the weather is like, or length of time you need to be away from your vehicle, leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is extremely risky, and can result in tragedy.
Recently, a father in North Carolina made national headlines and his video went viral when he tested the car heat. After seeing a story about yet another toddler death after the baby was left alone in a hot car, the father got into his car on a 90-degree day, rolled up the windows and switched off the air-conditioner. You can watch the video here.
Leaving children in cars also poses many dangers besides hyperthermia. Dangers to children left unattended in cars include carbon monoxide poisoning, runaway vehicles, carjacking, child abduction, trunk entrapment and emotional trauma, according to safety officials.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SAFE KIDS, Bakersfield Police Department and the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommend following these safety rules to avoid heat-related injuries or other vehicle dangers:
- Never leave a child alone in or around a vehicle.
- Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination, particularly when loading and unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
- Place a reminder of your child’s presence where you’ll be sure to see it before leaving the vehicle (diaper bag next to your briefcase and baby blanket under your lunch, for example)
- Never leave a child in a vehicle with the motor running or the key in the ignition.
- Keep car keys away from children at all times.
- Always lock your car, even at home, and remind your friends and neighbors to do the same.
- Teach children not to play in, on or around cars.
- Keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent children from getting into the trunk from inside the car.
- Dial 9-1-1 immediately if you see young children left unattended in vehicles.
- Heat in vehicles is also a risk to seniors and pets.
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Following this post last week, Amber Rollins, the director of “Kids and Cars” — a nonprofit public safety awareness website for child safety around automobiles — wrote Chain | Cohn | Stiles to make readers aware of a campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in vehicles.
KidsAndCars.org has launched a “We the People” petition drive on the White House petition website to urge the White House to authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation to:
- Provide funding for research and development of innovative technology to detect a child in the rear seat when a driver leaves the vehicle and a child is left alone.
- Identify, evaluate and test new technology to accelerate implementation of the most feasible and effective solutions.
- Require installation of technology in all vehicles and child safety seats to prevent children from being left alone in vehicles.
The goal of the campaign is to get 100,000 signatures on the petition by Aug. 12. Go to http://wh.gov/lL8nX to sign the petition.