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News should make us watchful for kids in hot cars

Published July 25. 2014 4:00AM

If more people are peering into the back seats of parked cars in recent weeks, there's been at least one positive outgrowth from the recent spate of incidents in which babies, toddlers and young children were left unattended in dangerously overheated vehicles.

In a recent two-week period, six such incidents were reported in the state. Three local occurrences, including one in which police say a 6-month-old was left in a car in which the temperature had climbed to more than 130 degrees, resulted in parents being arrested. Locally, the baby was rescued in time, but in the most tragic Connecticut case, a Ridgefield toddler died of heatstroke earlier this month after being forgotten in his father's car.

Forgetfulness and parental distraction seem weak excuses for locking helpless infants or young children in cars that can climb from a comfortable 70 degrees to a sweltering 90 degrees in about 30 minutes and to a life-endangering more than 100 degrees in about an hour. Still, agencies that track such tragedies report an average of 38 U.S. children each year since 1998 have died of heatstroke inside cars. The non-profit safety agency Kids and Cars reports that 44 children died in hot cars in 2013 and 17 have died in 2014 with at least one more scorching summer month to come.

Police departments and safety organizations offer straightforward tips to prevent tragedies: Never leave a child unattended in a car. Period. Reduce the risk of forgetting a sleeping infant in the back seat by placing a wallet or purse beside the infant car seat, or a child's toy on the front seat.

In Connecticut, the law prohibits children under 12 from being left unsupervised in a car for a period of time that could present a risk to health or safety. When lives are potentially at stake, hyper-vigilance is justified. So keep scanning those back seats and call 911 if a child might be in danger. The call could save a life.

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