SWEETWATER, Fla. – Earlier this month, a mother drove to pick up her son at daycare when workers told her she never dropped him off. He was dead in the back seat. She had left him inside the car and left to work in Pembroke Pines.
The summer months are especially critical, so to save lives the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Department of Children and Families teamed up up with local law enforcement to ask parents to "look before you lock."
Beatriz Lopez, a spokeswoman for DCF, said children's organs start to fail at about 100 degrees. Authorities are also reminding people in South Florida that the good samaritan law protects those who report there is a child alone inside the car.
About 80 percent of the increase in temperature happens in the first 10 minutes, and children have died from heatstroke in cars in temperatures as low as 60 degrees. A child's body overheats three to five times faster than an adult.
Parents need to be more cautious with the rear-facing child safety seats look the same whether there is a baby inside or not. When the brain is on auto-pilot because someone is tired, it is easy to make deadly mistakes.
"Parents lose awareness that their children are in their cars," David Diamond, a neuroscientist with the University of South Florida wrote for a Kids and Cars awareness campaign. "Tragically, these parents report that they had pictures of their child on their desks, they talked about their child and even left work on time to pick up their child from daycare."
Experts say the majority of the vehicular heatstroke deaths involved a loving and responsible parent. In about 54 percent of the cases parents unknowingly left the child inside.
Here is a list of prevention tips:
- Get in the habit of always opening the back door to check the back seat
- Place your purse, cell phone or something you need in the back seat.
- Get in the habit of placing a stuffed animal in the front passenger seat to remember you child is in the back seat.
- Never leave children alone in or around cars.
- Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
- If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside passenger compartments and trunks of all
vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911 immediately.