Last year, 52 children died in the U.S. after being left in a hot car, an increase of 21% over the previous year. Kentucky State Police said three of those cases happened in the commonwealth.
KSP, in a press release this week, warned of the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car. Twenty-five Kentucky children have died since 1998 because of "vehicular heatstroke," the release said. These cases include instances where a child accidentally locks himself in a car or has been forgotten in the car. These cases also include a small number of situations where a child was intentionally left in a car.
Last summer, 3-year-old Calvin Hedges was found unresponsive in a hot car, in Frankfort. He was pronounced dead after being transported to Frankfort Regional Medical Center. Franklin County Sheriff Chris Quire, who was Frankfort Police's public information officer at the time, said the incident was ruled an accident since the child locked himself inside the car and no charges were given. Quire echoed KSP's sentiments about the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a hot car or leaving cars unlocked.
Franklin County Sheriff's Office spokesman Maj. Travis Ellis said that he can't recall a more recent case where deputies have responded to a child in a hot car. Frankfort Police Capt. Lynn Aubrey did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
KSP Public Affairs Commander Sgt. Josh Lawson said in the press release that leaving a child in a hot car is often misunderstood. Most parents believe they could never accidentally forget a child in the backseat, which leads to danger. Lawson said that the increase of children dying in hot cars is reaching "epidemic proportions."
“The most dangerous mistake a parent can make is to think leaving a child alone in their car could never happen to them,” Lawson said. “In these fast-paced times, it is easy for parents to get distracted and forget their child is in the car with them.”
Another factor is the curiosity of children. A child playing outside could accidentally get in a car and lock himself inside.
Lawson said that children's bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults and the the temperature in a car can go up 19 degrees in 10 minutes.
"Depending on the circumstances, an infant could die of hyperthermia in just 15 minutes on a 75-degree day," Lawson said.
He gave the following safety tips to prevent children from death or serious injury in hot cars:
• Do not a child in an unattended car, even with the windows down.
• Get in the habit of opening the rear door of the car every time you park to ensure no one is left inside.
• To enforce that habit, place an item that you can’t start your day without, such as a purse, briefcase, employee badge or phone, in the back of your car.
• When at home, keep your vehicle locked at all times, even in the garage.
• Do not leave keys within reach of children.
• If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all vehicles in the area.
The General Assembly in 2000 passed "Bryan's Law," which makes a person liable for second-degree manslaughter or first-degree wanton endangerment for leaving a child younger than 8 years old in a vehicle with circumstances posing "a grave risk of death." Lawson said that while someone could face criminal charges for leaving a child in a hot car, guilt and pain from making such a mistake will last longer.
KSP is asking residents to watch out for children left in vehicles on hot days and call 911 if an unaccompanied child is in distress.