SPOKANE, Wash. - A tragic story in Georgia last week grabbed national headlines, as a young boy was left in a hot car and died from heatstroke. That child was left for seven hours; prosecutors are considering filing criminal charges.
While that case is extreme and possibly criminal, it shines a spotlight on the dangers of children left in hot cars.
"This happens to the most loving and caring parents," says Susan Auriemma with the organization KidsandCars.Org. "We've had a veterinarian, a doctor, a dentist, a professor, a school principal and even a rocket scientist."
A study done by San Francisco State University shows 619 kids have died of heatstroke inside cars since 1998. 18 percent were left on purpose, more than half were forgotten by a caretaker. 29 percent were kids who were playing in an unattended car.
"There are an average of 38 per year," says Auriemma. "It's 38 children too many. It's too much of a tragedy for these families."
It can happen quickly and it doesn't have to be scorching outside. Researchers found that even on a 73 degree day, the temperature inside a car goes up more than three degrees every five minutes. Cracking the windows doesn't help much once the temperature climbs.
So, what can you do? Keep your doors locked, even when your car is inside your garage. Make it impossible for kids to get locked inside.
And, while we never think it can happen to us, any parent of young children can relate to the fog of exhaustion. Many of these deaths occur when someone forgets to drop off the child at daycare and goes into work for the day.
Experts suggest you leave your purse or your wallet in the backseat where the child's car seat is. That way you'll reach for the wallet or purse and remember your child.