OKLAHOMA CITY – With temperatures expected to reach triple digits in some areas of the state this weekend, Attorney General Mike Hunter today is reminding Oklahomans to never leave children or pets in unattended vehicles.
In 2019, it is estimated that 52 U.S. children died of heatstroke after being left in hot cars, and between 1990 and 2019, it is estimated that 25 Oklahoma children died. According to kidsandcars.org, an advocacy and education nonprofit organization, the figures are likely an undercount because there are no official data collection systems.
Attorney General Hunter said a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s, and they could die faster than adults may realize when left in a hot vehicle.
“This is a preventable tragedy,” Attorney General Hunter said. “It’s important for Oklahomans to know that children and pets are more vulnerable to heatstroke. Caregivers need to make sure they are getting children and pets out of the car, even if they think they will only be away from their car for a second. With modern technology and free resources from organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is no excuse to leave a child or pet behind.”
The temperature inside a car rises almost 20 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the NHTSA. When temperatures outside are in the 80s, the inside of a car can reach close to 125 degrees within 60 minutes according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees.
In recent years, numerous companies have developed car seat alarms that remind parents about children being in the back seat. There are also several smartphone apps parents or guardians can download to help remind them about children and pets in the backseat.
Safety tips to remember if your child or pet is in the backseat:
- Make it a habit to open the backdoor of your car every time you park, even if you know you do not have a child or pet in the backseat;
- Keep a belonging like a cellphone, wallet or purse in the backseat so you will open the back door to get those items;
- Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is in the seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder;
- Always keep your vehicle locked so children cannot accidentally get trapped inside when the vehicle is not in use.
Actions for bystanders:
- Act quickly. The primary concern is the safety of the child and animal;
- Assess the health of the child or animal, take note of the make, model, description and license plate number into the business establishment where the vehicle is parked and have the manager announce the situation and vehicle information over the intercom in an attempt to find the owner;
- If the owner doesn’t immediately respond, call 9-1-1 or the local humane authority; and
- If the child or animal’s health seems to be deteriorating, take more drastic measures. Get at least one other person to confirm your assessment, then take action to get the child or animal out of the vehicle.
- Signs of heatstroke include excessive sweating, panting, vomiting, lethargy and lack of coordination.