Kids left in hot cars on the rise

Study shows most children were forgotten

The number of children being left in scorching hot cars is on the rise in Pinellas County, according to fire rescue officials, and a campaign is underway to prevent more incidents as the summer progresses.

A study of Pinellas County's 14 municipal fire districts found that rescue crews responded to 183 calls for help involving kids in hot cars since April of last year. Out of those calls, 189 children were treated for heat-related injuries.

"Unfortunately the sun doesn't turn itself off," said Lt. Steven Lawrence with St. Petersburg Fire Rescue.  Lawrence said that parents have a tendency to try to make quick trips into a store or home not realizing how quickly cars can heat up.

"The temperature of a car interior can rise 19 degrees in just 10 minutes," Lawrence said. A child will start suffering from heatstroke when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher. At 107 degrees, the child is at risk of permanent brain damage or death.

Car interiors can reach temperatures of 120 degrees or higher in the sun.

Florida Suncoast Safe Kids, in conjunction with All Children's Hospital and local fire departments are trying to spread the word about the dangers of hot cars.

The group is handing out fliers, keychains and mirror hangers to remind parents and guardians not to forget kids inside vehicles.

Out of all the kids left inside hot cars nationwide, 52 percent of the cases were blamed on people forgetting that their kids were there.

"When I was a child, my parents would leave us in the car when they ran in somewhere," said Dr. Beth Walford, a pediatrician at All Children's Hospital. Walford said in many cases parents are more concerned about issues besides heat.

"They're worried about kidnapping and car theft," Walford said.

Jennifer Griffiths, a parent who lives in Pinellas County, said she won't even let her teenager stay inside a hot car alone after seeing reports of how kids accidentally get trapped inside.

"I have a 14-year-old, and she'll be like, 'Mom, I'll stay in the car,'" Griffiths said. "I'm like, 'No, we're going to stop the car and we're going to get out of the car and we're going to go inside.'"  

"It's just not worth the risk."

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