July is Purple Ribbon Month in memory of all the children who’ve died in overheated cars or been accidentally hit by a car.
In 2000, six-month-old Kaitlyn Marie Russell died after she was left in a hot van. Now, Kaitlyn’s Law prohibits parents from leaving kids under the age of six in a car without the supervision of at least a 12-year-old.
Car overheating incidents like this are almost always accidental–but preventable.
“The number one reaction we get is, ‘oh my gosh I would never leave my child in the car on purpose,” said Heidi Carter-Escudero, a communications coordinator at the Department of Human Services. “It’s happened to law enforcement; it’s even happened to first responders–so it can literally happen to anyone because we are a distracted society.”
According to the Department of Human Services, 21 children across the country–and two in California–have died from overheating in cars already in 2018. On average, 37 children nationwide die this way annually.
“Even for older children, the best practice would be don’t leave the child there,” said Cindy Uetz, the chief deputy director at the Department of Human Services.
Experts say it takes just ten minutes for the temperature inside a car to rise 20 degrees higher than the air outside. In addition, a child’s body can warm five times faster than an adult’s.
“Generally when we see them, they almost have lifeless bodies at that point,” said Bakersfield Fire Battalion Chief John Frando.
Not only is leaving children in cars a hazard, according to kidsandcars.org, vehicles back over at least 50 children every week. The accidents come from not noticing small children in the blind spot.
The Department of Human Services urges drivers to walk around their cars before starting the engine and keep toys out of your driveway to ensure kids aren’t playing there.
They also recommend creating a reminder for yourself by putting a cell phone, wallet, or purse next to your child in the backseat. And, always lock your car so kids can’t get in accidentally.
If you see an unattended child in a vehicle, just call 911.