18 hot-car deaths so far this year

July 31, 2014

(CNS) – Los Angeles police and Children’s Hospital representatives warned the public today about the dangers of leaving children unattended in hot vehicles after a Sylmar toddler climbed into an unoccupied car and was unable to get out.

The 3-year-old boy got into a vehicle outside his home 14400 block of Foothill Boulevard in Sylmar Wednesday afternoon and died when he was overcome by the heat.

“It is obvious that we have a problem in our communities with children being forgotten inside vehicles, children being intentionally being left inside the vehicle and children being allowed to play around vehicles,” Detective Bill Bustos said during a news conference at the Valley Traffic Division. “We need to have this reminder to inform the community that there is a problem so that they can take the precautions to prevent a tragedy.”

According to police, the temperature of a car left in the summer sun can rise nearly 10 degrees in 20 the first minutes, 34 degrees in 30 minutes and 45-50 degrees after one to two hours. Police said that leaving the windows
slightly cracked has very little effect on keeping vehicles cool.

“If the temperatures were to be up into the 80s today, it would be approximately 130 degrees inside,” Bustos said. “In direct sunlight, the dashboard, steering wheel and other items inside the car could near 200 degrees… A child dies when his or her temperature reaches 107 degrees.”

Yesterday’s death was third of its kind statewide so far this year and the 18th nationally, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nationally, an average of 38 children die from heat exposure in
vehicles each year.

“This is a completely preventable injury and it is tragic,” said Helen Arbogast, an injury prevention coordinator with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “They die because we haven’t done our part as adults.”

Police urged anyone who sees a child locked in a parked car to first see if the child is responsive and then try to find the parents. If the child does not respond or appears to be in distress, police said to call 911 and then try get into the car, breaking the window if necessary.

Bustos said parents should check back seats before leaving their cars.

“Becoming vigilant about looking in the vehicle before locking the door is important. Always look from front to back before walking away,” Bustos said.

In Sylmar Wednesday, the boy who died was not locked inside the car. The ambient temperatue at the time was in the 90s, with some San Fernando Valley hotspots around 100 degrees. Police declined to say how long he might have been in the vehicle when firefighters arrived.

The boy’s name was unavailable today. It was unclear if the boy’s parents would be charged in the death.