The following editorial is republished from the June 19 News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown.
The June 2 arrest of an Elizabethtown father accused of leaving his 7-year-old son inside an unattended parked car in a local shopping plaza parking lot for almost 40 minutes gives reason for a stern reminder to parents and caregivers.
Don't leave children alone inside a parked vehicle at any time, for any reason, anywhere. For that matter, take measures also to secure your unattended vehicle to eliminate a child accidentally locking themselves inside.
After being alerted to the problem and finding the little boy in a desperate condition inside the locked car, windows up, Elizabethtown police were able to quickly gain access. Police said the boy was provided water and cooler temperatures inside an air-conditioned police cruiser.
Officers arrested his 34-year-old father as he left one retail store on his way to another at the shopping center. He was charged with first-degree wanton endangerment.
If convicted, he could face one to five years in prison.
Had the youngster remained even a few minutes longer in the car as temperatures continued to rise inside, the outcome easily could have been tragic. This type of incident led to the creation of Bryan's Law, so-named in memory of 11-month-old Bryan Puckett who died as a result of being left in a car by his babysitter one hot day in July 1999.
According to www.KidsandCars.org, pediatric vehicular heatstroke is the leading cause of death among children in non-crash vehicle incidents. On average, 38 children die each year because of heatstroke as a result of being left unattended in a vehicle. That equates to one child fatality every nine days.
The problem seems to be growing. Just last year, the most hyperthermia fatalities among children occurred with 52 in the U.S., a nearly 21 percent increase over the death total from 2017. So far this year, 11 children have died because they were left alone in a hot vehicle.
According to statistics reported by Kentucky State Police, since 1998 there have been 25 vehicular pediatric heat-stroke deaths in Kentucky. There's one heartbreaking commonalty among these deaths - each easily could have been prevented.
A study conducted by the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University with doctors at Stanford University Hospital found just how quickly and how hot temperatures can rise inside a vehicle. On days with an ambient temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a car left outdoors can rise to 117 degrees within 60 minutes. Further, the study showed 80 percent of the temperature rise occurred inside the first 30 minutes. Researchers also found that cracking a window didn't have any significant measurable impact on the heat buildup and resulting temperature.
Understanding a child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult's, every minute a little boy or girl is left inside a vehicle can be life threatening.
Never purposefully leave a child in a parked car for any length of time. Parents and caregivers also should take steps to lessen the risk of forgetting and leaving a child in the backseat by accident. The KidsandCars.org "Look Before You Lock" safety checklist available on the organization's website at www.kidsandcars.org is an excellent resource to keep handy and follow.