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RPD: Hot vehicles pose dangers to children

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With temperatures often climbing into triple digits in Roswell and elsewhere in southeast New Mexico, local police and fire department officials this week reminded parents and other child caregivers to raise their awareness of the importance of never leaving children inside unattended vehicles.

The temperature inside a parked vehicle can quickly reach lethal levels in hot or even warm weather. Babies and other young children, and pets as well, are not able to escape a hot vehicle on their own.

The Roswell Police Department and Roswell Fire Department remind everyone all it takes is a brief distraction to cause a parent or other caregiver to exit a vehicle without thinking about a child who was along on the trip. Take whatever steps necessary to remember a child is with you, officials advise, and never leave a child, even for what you think will be a short time.

Roswell can regularly experience temperatures climbing upwards of 100 degrees — but even with an outside temperature of just 80 degrees, the inside of a closed vehicle can quickly reach nearly 140 degrees, according to researchers.

Under the spring and summer sun, it takes only 10 minutes for the temperature in a vehicle to rise 20 degrees. And leaving a window open a crack or parking in the shade aren’t sufficient safeguards. Trapped inside a vehicle, a child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s. A child usually dies from heatstroke when his or her body temperature reaches 107 degrees.

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Most parents cannot imagine themselves leaving, even accidentally, their child in a hot vehicle — yet statistics show more than half of the instances of child deaths in hot vehicles occurred after a child was accidentally or unknowingly left in a vehicle. Young children, especially babies, often fall asleep in their car seats, becoming quiet passengers. For babies in rear-facing child seats, the seats – whether occupied or not – look the same when seen by someone in the front.

The second most common instance of children dying in hot vehicles is when children get into a vehicle on their own, thinking it would be fun or simply to satisfy their curiosity. Never leave children alone in or around vehicles, lock vehicles when you leave them, and do not leave keys or remote door openers where a child can get them, officials advise.

Here are some other tips from KidsandCars.org:

• Put something you’ll need to take with you from the vehicle — cell phone, purse, briefcase, ID — on the floorboard in the back seat. It will force you to pay attention to what, and perhaps who, is in the back of the vehicle.

• If you and the child usually travel without other passengers, keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that the child is in the child safety seat.

• Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind.

• When a child is missing, check inside vehicles and vehicle trunks immediately.

• If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 immediately.