July 14, 2022 – Relentless triple-digit temperatures are prompting AAA to issue an alert: Take precautions to never leave a child in a vehicle – even for a few minutes.

“The temperature inside a car can spike to life-threatening levels within minutes in this heat,” according to Leslie Gamble, AAA Oklahoma Public, and Government Affairs manager. “A child’s body temperature escalates much quicker than an adult’s. The danger in this intense heat cannot be underestimated.”

Oklahoma has the nation’s second highest deaths per capita of children in hot cars. Ten children have died already this year in the U.S.

In 2020, however, four Oklahoma children lost their lives in hot cars. According to reports, two died after getting into a vehicle without the knowledge of a parent and were unable to get out. One occurred as a parent became involved in a conversation with a visitor and didn’t realize one of several children in his care was still in the vehicle after that unexpected interaction occurred. The fourth child who died was inadvertently left in a vehicle by a mother who reported exhaustion and sleep deprivation that likely affected her judgment.

“All these scenarios can occur to well-meaning and responsible parents,” said Gamble, AAA Oklahoma spokesperson. “Changes in routines often trigger situations that lead to heatstroke deaths. So, especially as temperatures surge, we urge parents and caregivers to take specific precautions to prevent child heatstroke in vehicles. Simple, but consistent steps can prevent the unimaginable grief of the loss of a child.”

Gamble urges parents to say the phrase created by Safe Kids, “Park. Look. Lock.” as a conscious reminder each time they turn their cars off after driving. Intentionally going through the steps of looking in the back seat after parking and before locking the car can prevent situations, resulting from temporary mind lapses or even communications mix-ups regarding transporting a child.

Safe Kids also recommends internalizing the acronym A-C-T to avoid child entrapment in a hot car:

A – Avoid heat stroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not inside so kids don’t get in on their own.

C – Create reminders. Keep a stuffed animal or other mementos in your child’s car seat when it’s empty and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat. Or place and secure your phone, purse, or backpack in the backseat when traveling with your child.

T – Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 9-1-1. Emergency personnel is trained to respond to these situations.

Entrapment in hot vehicles has led to 36 deaths of children, ages 14 or younger, in Oklahoma in the past 23 years, according to NoHeatstroke.org. “100% of these tragedies are preventable,” Gamble said. “All Oklahomans who care for children must be hyper-vigilant, especially during this extended heat wave. It happens one conversation at a time among all those involved with children.”

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