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Summer tragedies can be avoided

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Summer is here and we’re already seeing the dreaded headlines about children who are left inside hot cars, leading to heat stroke and even death.

Since 1998, at least 13 children in Kentucky have died as a result of being left inside sweltering vehicles while their parents or caregivers shop, go to work or run errands. It’s just another example of the abuse and neglect that plagues Kentucky’s children.

A 2009 study revealed that Kentucky led the nation in the number of deaths from abuse and neglect. These heat-related incidents serve notice that neglect can be just as fatal as intentional physical abuse.

Carelessly leaving a child in a locked car for even a short time can have tragic consequences. The temperature inside a car can rise rapidly in just a matter of minutes and leaving the windows cracked offers very little relief.

Most of these tragic incidents are not the result of intentionally trying to harm a child, but are the result of carelessness and neglect. A national study of the nearly 500 vehicular hyperthermia deaths nationally since 1998 suggested that 51 percent involved children who were accidently ‘forgotten’ by the caregiver. Thirty percent involve children who were playing in an unattended vehicle and became trapped and 17 percent involved children who were intentionally left in the vehicle.

There are some easy steps to follow that can greatly reduce the chance of such a tragedy from happening in your family.

• Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even for a minute.

• If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1.

• Make sure all children get out of the vehicle when you arrive at your destination. Don’t overlook sleeping babies or children.

• Always keep your car locked and make sure children are not allowed to play in the vehicle.

• Make it a habit to ‘look before you leave’ checking the back seat whenever you exit your car.

Kentucky’s greatest assets are our young people. Protecting them should be a priority for all of us. Since 1869, Sunrise Children’s Services has served children who have been victimized by abuse and neglect. You can learn more about us at www.sunrise.org.

Dr. William Smithwick
President and CEO Sunrise Children’s Services