Local News

July 31, 2013

Vehicles can be death traps for children left alone

PLATTSBURGH — The temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees in just 10 minutes when the engine is turned off and windows rolled up.

If a child is left inside,“the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough, and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels,” said Martha Passino, regional coordinator for the New York State Traffic Safety Committee and a pediatric nurse practitioner in Plattsburgh.

“Young children are particularly at risk, as their body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s.”


While the recent intense heat in the North Country has subsided somewhat, an automobile’s interior can still be deadly for a child left alone inside.

Since 1998, more than 550 children across the nation have died from heatstroke when left unattended in a vehicle, including 24 so far this year.

Safe Kids/New York, a coalition of public and private organizations working together to prevent childhood injuries and deaths, is promoting awareness of that danger.

“Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children,” Passino said.

“This year alone has the potential to be the worst year on record (for recorded auto-related heatstroke deaths).”


Among the recorded deaths over the past 15 years, 52 percent of the children were forgotten by their caregiver and left behind in the vehicle, 29 percent occurred when kids were playing in an unattended vehicle, and 18 percent were intentionally left in a vehicle by an adult who expected to be away for only a short while.

“A lot of times, people plan on going into a store for just a couple of minutes but end up spending more time (away) than they thought,” Passino said.

“Don’t leave a child unattended, even for a minute.”


Although it may seem unlikely for a parent or guardian to forget a child in the backseat, statistics show that is the most common experience.

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