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Danger: Kids left in hot cars can die

Earlier this week, a Johnson City mother was arrested on child abuse and neglect charges after police said her young children were left unattended for more than two hours in a car parked at a shopping center.

Just days earlier, an Elizabethton police officer broke the window of a parked car to get to an unattended child.

Temperatures at the time in both incidents were in the upper 80s.

Every summer, heartbreaking and preventable deaths happen when children are left alone in hot cars.

More than 600 U.S. children have died that way since 1990, according to the nonprofit safety group Kids and Cars.

These cases happen when kids are left unattended in a hot car – sometimes because the driver forgot the child was there – or where kids get into unlocked cars without any adult knowing it happened. Within minutes, they can be in danger.

It’s never OK to leave kids or pets in a car – even with the windows down. Temperatures inside a car on a summer day can get exceedingly hot in an exceedingly short period of time.

Also, kids are more susceptible and at higher risk for heat-related illness and injury than adults because their bodies make more heat relative to their size, and their abilities to cool through sweating are not as developed as adults.

As a result, just a few minutes can be extremely dangerous – even fatal – for a small child.

A lot of you who read this will say, “There’s no way I’d ever forget my child.”

And a lot of you will be wrong.

The results of a recent survey, published on the SafeKids.org website stated that:

• 14 percent of parents have intentionally left their children in a parked car

• 11 percent of parents admit forgetting their child in a car.

• Nearly one in four parents of a child under 3 has forgotten their child in a car.

• Dads are nearly three times more likely than moms to leave a child in a parked car.

Not all deaths were caused by people forgetting. Many have thought cracking the window made the car cool enough. Many of the people cited in the survey thought it was OK to let a child stay in a parked, locked vehicle for longer than 15 minutes.

Still, a little more than half of all child heatstroke deaths in cars were caused by a parent forgetting the child was in the car. The parent is distracted, preoccupied or running on autopilot, like many busy parents of babies and toddlers. The child falls asleep. The parent gets out of the car and leaves the baby behind.

Some things you must know and heed:

• Never leave kids alone in a hot car, even briefly.

• Always check the front and back seats of the car before you lock it and leave.

• See a kid alone in a hot car? Call 911 immediately. Get them out as soon as possible if they are in distress.

• Always lock your car when it’s empty so kids can’t get in without you knowing it.

Some good advice: Put one of your shoes or maybe a purse next to your child in the backseat as a reminder.

It may sound silly, but do whatever it takes to remind you to take your son or daughter with you – it may save their life.