GRAHAM COUNTY — Temperatures are rising, and temperatures rise even more quickly in a closed vehicle, which means back seats need to be checked for children and pets.
Childrens left in cars proved deadly last year, with 52 child deaths in 2018, and there have already been 11 heatstroke related deaths nationally from children being left in hot cars so far this year.
In Willcox, authorities were called to the Bealls Outlet store June 9 regarding a child left alone and screaming in a gray van. According to the police report, the responding officer went to the store and initiated a welfare check. By the time the officer arrived, the vehicle was moved from the parking lot and the officer attempted to make contact with the owner of the vehicle. When the officer located the vehicle and owner, the child was no longer in the vehicle and the parent was advised not to leave their child in the car in the future.
According to a study by the American Pediatrics Society, the interior temperature of a car can raise 40 degrees within one hour. Meaning, if a child is left alone in a car when the interior temp was 80 degrees at the time of parking, the interior temp will raise to 120 degrees over the next 60 minutes.
When a child’s core temperature reaches 104 degrees, the child’s internal organs begin to shut down. At a core temperature of 107, a human dies.
The average high temperature for June in Safford is 99 degrees. If a child is left alone in a parked vehicle with the windows rolled up for half an hour with the interior of the car matching the exterior temperature of 99 degrees, the interior temperature of the car will quickly reach 119 degrees.
A parent may forget a child in the back seat due to a schedule change, stress, or exhaustion. Experts suggest that in order to remain aware of the child being in the back seat, that the parent should place an object of importance — such as a purse, wallet or cell phone — in the back seat with the child. When leaving the vehicle, the individual has to reach into the back seat to retrieve the item and is, once again, made aware of the fact that the child is also in the back seat.
Another suggestion for parental awareness is to leave a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when the child is not in the car, and when the child is in the car to place the stuffed toy in the front seat as a reminder to the parent.
When an individual is faced with the reality of finding a child locked in a hot car, Kidsandcars.org urges the public to call 911 immediately. If the child is crying or in distress, the onlooker is urged to retrieve the child from the car. At this point, there is no law in Arizona regarding children being left alone in hot cars. However, any harm that occurs to a child is filed under Arizona child endangerment laws.
Although some may argue that an animal’s life is not nearly as important as a child’s, pet owners are being held accountable for the death of their animals in cars by clear and concise law. Leaving a pet in a hot car is an act of animal cruelty in Arizona and is considered a misdemeanor. Also, Arizona bystanders are legally allowed to break into a hot car to rescue a pet from the heat.
Dogs have higher body temperatures, and can overheat faster than humans. Certain dog breeds with shorter snouts are more likely to overheat in higher temperatures due to their biology.
In order to avoid leaving their pets in the car during summer days, pet owners are encouraged to use drive-thru windows, leave their pets with friends while they shop, shop at pet-friendly stores and use outdoor cafes.