Tallahassee, Florida- June 9, 2012
As temperatures set records across the state and nation, the Department of Children and Families and the Florida Highway Patrol are reminding parents and caregivers to pay attention to their tiniest passengers.
It is never appropriate to leave young children, vulnerable adults or pets unattended in a car. And during the summer months, hot temperatures can be fatal.
High temperatures outside of a vehicle mean extreme temperatures inside. A child, vulnerable adult or animal can suffer from a potentially fatal or debilitating heat stroke within minutes. In one national study, the leading cause for children left unattended in hot vehicles was attributed to drivers simply forgetting that a child was in the car and leaving them behind.
In Florida, it is a second degree misdemeanor to leave a child younger than age 6 in an unattended car for a period in excess of 15 minutes. Temperatures inside a car during the summer have the potential to rise up to 200 degrees. A child's body is not as efficient as an adult's, and a child's core body temperature can rise three to five times faster than that of an adult with a greater potential for heat stroke.
As summer schedules bring change and infants and toddlers regularly nap in their car seats, drivers sometimes forget their quiet little ones are in the back seat. Drivers carrying precious cargo should create a back-up system to remind them to check for sleeping tiny passengers such as a ribbon on a dash or leaving their purse or other item on the back seat to ensure they “look before they lock.”
Each year, DCF and FHP investigate incidents where children and vulnerable adults have been left unattended in vehicles during sweltering summer days. Every year, there are preventable tragedies. In the past decade, across the country, more than 200 children have died after being left in hot cars.
Anyone who sees a young child or vulnerable adult left unattended in a vehicle during these extreme summer temperatures should contact emergency personnel immediately. You could save a life.