As the temperature continues to rise, so does the risk of vehicular hyperthermia (heat stroke), especially for a child left inside a hot vehicle. Regardless of how or why a child is left behind, the end result can be devastating. To prevent the tragedy of a young child’s death, “Kaitlyn’s Law” was enacted in California in 2002 following the heat-related death of 6-month-old Kaitlyn Marie Russell. Sadly, Kaitlyn was left unattended in a parked vehicle on a hot summer day.
“On a typical sunny day, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach a potentially deadly level within minutes,” said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow. “There is no excuse for leaving a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a few minutes.”
California law prohibits anyone from leaving a child six years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle without the supervision of someone who is 12 years or older when: there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety, or when the vehicle’s engine is running and/or the vehicle’s key is in the ignition (California Vehicle Code 15620).
While the law prohibits it, sadly, even the best of parents or caregivers can overlook a sleeping baby in a vehicle; and the end result can be injury or even death. For this reason, the CHP encourages parents or caregivers to develop a plan, or a habit, which serves as a reminder of where a child is at all times.
“A few simple precautions can go a long way toward keeping a child safe,” added Commissioner Farrow. “No matter what the weather is like, or length of time you need to be away from the vehicle, leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is very risky and can result in tragedy.”
Finally, the public is also encouraged to take an active role in safeguarding children who may be left unattended in a vehicle by dialing 9-1-1 immediately and following the instructions that emergency personnel provide.