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The Heat Is On PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 19 July 2012 04:57

Authorities Caution Against Leaving Kids, Pets And Older People Inside Cars During Summer

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

It's 9 a.m. and Los Angeles Police Department officer Mauricio Valdovinos is sweating profusely.

Outside, in the parking lot in front of the LAPD Valley Traffic's Division station in Panorama City, the temperature is a comfortable 75 degrees. But inside the black SUV with the windows closed, a large thermometer next to a "mannequin" resembling a child strapped on his baby seat shows the mercury rising near the 90-degree mark.

"A dark-color car rises the temperature about 10 degrees, but it doesn't matter if it's a light-colored car, it's still dangerous," said Valdovinos, who was also sitting inside the enclosed vehicle.

Since 1998, 623 kids have died in the United States for heatstroke after been left inside cars. Most of them were under five-years-old. Ten have died this year alone in similar circumstances. It's a tragedy that, unfortunately, makes headlines every summer and a tragedy that is 100 percent preventable, authorities said during a recent heat demonstration.

"That car, as comfortable as it looks, it will become an oven," said Capt. Ivan Minsal of the LAPD Valley Traffic Division.

"In 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can go from 80 degrees to about 120 and up to 150 degrees," Minsal added. "A kid under three-years-old can die under that temperature."

Recent Case

"If you see a small child left in a car, a pet or an older person, don't be afraid to call 911," said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Dave Cohen, who recalled an incident not too long ago at the Plant shopping center in Panorama City.

"Someone saw an older gentleman inside a car and they called us. When we got there, the gentleman was starting to show signs of trouble, he was confused and his body heat was dangerously high," recalled Cohen.

And that was during the spring. Now it's summer, and temperatures in the San Fernando Valley oscillate in the 90s and often surpass the century mark, which makes the call for caution even more important.

"The young and the old are not able to regulate temperature. They can get dehydrated very quickly," Capt. Cohen said.

The Law

Leaving a child inside a car is not only dangerous. It's also against the law.

In 2002, the state legislature passed the Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Act, better known as Kaytlin's law, a measure that makes it illegal for a child under six-years-old to be left alone in a car. The law was named in honor of Kaitlyn Marie Russell, who died at the age of six months in August 2000, when a babysitter left her inside a van on a day when the temperature was 100- degrees.

The fine for violating Kaitlyn's law is $100, but Dr. Charles Sophy, medical director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services said this is small compared to the guilt and emotional distress that can last a lifetime for parents who make the tragic mistake of leaving a child inside a car.

"There's a physical and emotional aspect to supervising and protecting your child," Dr. Sophy said. "You have to have your eyes on your child all the time."

California Highway Patrol Capt. Kevin Gordon echoed that statement.

"If you have your child in the backseat, put your bag there to remind you that you have your child with you," Gordon said. "Leaving your child inside a car is not bad parenting because we all make mistakes. It's a tragic mistake that could have fatal circumstances."

And leaving a window open in the car makes no difference, added Capt. Minsal.

"It can get that hot in that short time. Don't leave your children or animals in a car. This is everybody's problem, but everybody can be a solution," he said.

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