BATON ROUGE, LA — With summer officially started and temperatures reaching the 90s on many days, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission warns motorists not to leave children alone in closed vehicles for even a few minutes.
Each year in the United States about 40 children die as the result of heat-related illness they contracted when left in an unattended vehicle. Many of these deaths result when adults leave a vehicle forgetting that a small child is in the rear seat. However, some children die after entering a parked vehicle through an unlocked door or open trunk and are unable to get out.
Heat-stroke danger is particularly prevalent in Louisiana, which ranks among the states with the hottest average summer temperatures. Vehicles become hotter the longer they’re left in the sun. The inside temperature of a closed vehicle left in the sun can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.
"A child's core temperature can rise up to three-to-five times faster than that of an adult, which adds to the risk of heat stroke in a closed and unattended vehicle," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "The temperature inside a closed vehicle left in the sun can quickly rise to dangerous levels in a surprisingly short period."
Child safety advocates recommend that drivers place something they'll need at their final destination, such as a cell phone, purse or briefcase, next to a child to avoid forgetting the child is in the rear seat. This is especially important when the adult is not following his or her normal routine.
Louisiana law provides for fines and possible jail time of up to six months for persons who leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Penalties increase for subsequent offenses. State law describes "unattended" as "a child who has been left in a motor vehicle when the driver or operator of the vehicle is more than ten feet from the vehicle and unable to continuously observe the child."