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Advocacy group offers tips to avoid hot car child death tragedy

By Scott Shindledecker Today’s News-HeraldMay 14, 2019

The tragic death of a 1 ½-year-old girl in Lake Havasu City Saturday afternoon has again laid bare the repeated occurrences of children being left alone in hot cars and dying.

The girl, the daughter of Ty Wesley Martin, who is accused of manslaughter in her death, was the second child to die in a hot car in Arizona in 2019, according to advocacy group kidsandcars.org.

According to information from kidsandcars.org, Arizona ranks No. 4 in the U.S. with 42 child deaths in hot cars since 1994. Its data indicates seven children have died in hot cars, including two in Arizona, in 2019. It says that 2018 was the worst year in history for children dying in hot cars with 52 fatalities.

In a May 6 USA Today story, it cited NoHeatStroke.org’s figures that said 800 children have died in hot cars since 1998 when record keeping first began.

Jan Null, an adjunct professor and research meteorologist at San Jose State University, studies how hot vehicles can get, and the tracking of heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.

“With an outside air temperature of approximately 85 degrees, the inside air temperature of the car could have been in excess of 130 degrees,” Null wrote. “Objects or a person inside the car in direct sunlight would have been significantly hotter.”

According to Amber Rollins, the director and volunteer manager for kidsandcars.org, hot car deaths continue to take place because nobody believes this could happen to them.

“Please help us raise awareness about these predictable and preventable tragedies,” she wrote in an email to Today’s News-Herald.

According to kidsandcars.org, they are planning on reintroducing the Hot Cars Act soon to Congress. A similar measure failed in 2017.

“The federal bill would require technology in all vehicles to help prevent these unthinkable fatalities,” Rollins said in an email.

Kidsandcars.org offered some tips for parents and caregivers:

• Make a habit of opening the back door every time you park to ensure no one is left behind;

• To enforce this habit, place an item that you can’t start your day without in the back seat;

• Clearly announce and confirm who is getting each child out of the vehicle;

• Ask your child care provider to call you right away if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.

The group also offered the following suggestions to ensure children can’t get into a parked car:

• Keep vehicles locked at all times, especially in the garage or driveway;

• Never leave car keys within reach of children;

• If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all vehicles in the area very carefully;

• Teach children to honk the horn if they become stuck inside a car.

For more information, go to kidsandcars.org.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at 928-453-4237 or sshindledecker@havasunews.com.

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