The danger of hot cars

Jun 28, 2018 by

Published in the June 29, 2018 edition

MELROSE — As temperatures rise, Chief Michael L. Lyle and the Melrose Police Department are reminding residents of the dangers associated with leaving a child or pet in a hot car. Chief Lyle observed the dangers himself recently, after a child was accidentally left in a car, and he was the first officer on scene.

Melrose Police responded to Slayton Road near the Mount Hood Golf Course Playground after a nanny reported to police that she closed the door and accidentally left the keys in the console with the toddler she was watching locked inside the car.

After just a few minutes, the nanny reported that the child had gone from smiling and laughing to crying as temperatures rose quickly inside the vehicle. Melrose Police, Fire and Stephens Automotive Transport arrived quickly, and the child was freed within one minute of their arrival. The child was in the locked car for less than 10 minutes. The toddler was cooled off and evaluated by EMS but was able to return home.

“The story ended well in this case, and the officers, firefighters and tow operator did an outstanding job, but today showed just how quickly conditions change inside a vehicle,” Chief Lyle said. “I know accidents happen, but I hope all residents will read and appreciate these important safety tips and never intentionally leave a child or a pet inside a hot car.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 42 children died from vehicular heatstroke in 2017 — a staggering 63 percent increase from 2015.

Heatstroke occurs when a person’s core body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature of 107 degrees can result in irreversible organ damage or death. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, young children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s, putting them at higher risk.

Temperatures inside a car can rise 20 degrees in a matter of 10 minutes. Even on a 60-degree day, temperatures inside a car can reach 110 degrees, and on a hot day, they can get to 125 degrees in minutes.

The majority of deaths occur when a parent or caregiver forgets a child in a car.

Chief Lyle recommends that residents follow several important safety tips from the NHTSA:

• Always check the back seats of your vehicle before your lock it and walk away.

• Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.

• If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely to his/her destination.

• Have your daycare provider call you if your child doesn’t arrive.

If you see a child left in a car, take action immediately. Do not wait for the driver to return or assume that they will be back soon. If the child appears to be in distress, attempt to get them out of the car immediately, even it means breaking a window, and dial 911.

Pets should also not be left in cars. According to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pets suffer needlessly when left in hot cars, even on moderately warm days. Such actions can result not only in harm to your pet but also fines and possible prison time for pet owners.

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