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Updated: 08/13/2014 08:18:01AM

Heatstroke deaths of children left in vehicles preventable

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Parents know about kids’ cars seats and seat belts but current statistics show that perhaps they need more education when it comes to leaving children unattended in cars.

According to the Department of Geosciences, this year’s fatality statistics are staggering. Only halfway through the year there have already been 20 deaths of children who were been left in cars. In 2013 there were 44 deaths.

Although the numbers are staggering, they are 100 percent preventable. Through making known the laws and some tips, death totals can decline.

Florida State Statute 316.6135 clearly shows leaving children unattended in cars is illegal, even if the car is running with the air conditioner on. The law states no parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child younger than 6 years of age shall leave such child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle for a period in excess of 15 minutes; however, no such person shall leave a child unattended for any period of time if the motor vehicle is running or the health of the child is in danger.

The law lays out fines of up to $500 and ticket citations for noncriminal traffic infraction. Under this statute, law enforcement officers have the right to use any means necessary to rescue a child from a hot car. The child will then be held with the Department of Children and Family Services until the parents or guardian is found.

“We will use any means necessary to get a child out of a hot car,” stated Chief James Fansler of Lake Placid Police Department. “We will take the door off the hinges if necessary.”

Fansler said it doesn’t happen often in Lake Placid and it is usually pet owners who are ti blame. “We educate them on the dangers,” said Fansler. A car’s interior can reach up to 109 degrees Fahrenheit within ten minutes and 124 degrees within a half an hour when the temperature outside is just 90.

Some tips that may help avoid tragedy are:

• Never leave kids in the car, not for anything, pay for gas at the pump with a debit or credit card.

• Using drive-through services can eliminate forgetting your child is in the back seat.

• When changing schedules for daycare and schools etc., be extra vigilant.

• Place a purse, cell phone, wallet or other needed item on the back floorboard to force you to open the back doors and see your child in his or her car seat.

Remember it is also illegal to leave your pets in a car unattended. They are extra hot in their fur coats. Studies have shown that cracking open windows for pets and children does not make a significant difference in the interior car temperature.