Local News

Public Health Officials Warn Against Leaving Kids In Hot Cars

Posted August 2, 2004 6:12 a.m. EDT

— A mother who left her baby in a hot car Friday could find out this week if she will be charged with a crime.

Eleven-month old Logan Molden

died in his mother's car

in Rocky Mount. Leslie Wood told police she forgot her child was in the back seat.

Police believe the child was in the car for at least two hours. His funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.

Logan became the second child to die this year after being left in a parked car on a hot day, prompting state public-health officials to again warn caregivers about leaving children in hot cars.

"This is a tragedy that could have been prevented," state Health Director Dr. Leah Devlin said. "People are very busy these days, and sometimes what gets lost in the shuffle is that your child is still in the car."

In the last five years, six North Carolina children have died after being left in a hot car. In four of the cases, a parent or caregiver simply forgot to take the child out.

"Parents and other caregivers need to come up with a way to ensure that they remember that their child is in the backseat."

According to the health department, an easy reminder is to get a very large stuffed animal and put it in your front seat, where it can easily be seen by the driver. When you move your child out of his or her car seat, place the stuffed animal in the child's car seat. That way, you have a visible reminder that the child is still in the car.

"It's something we are trying that other states have done and Web sites that specialize in children's safety suggest," said Debbie Crane, of the Department of Health and Human Services. "It couldn't do any harm. The best it could do is help."

According to healt-department officials, a closed vehicle can heat up to dangerous levels in a matter of minutes on a warm, sunny day -- even at temperatures as mild as 60 degrees.

During the summer months, the temperature inside a parked car can surpass 120 degrees in as little as 10 minutes.

Direct sunlight and a dark-colored car further speed the heating process.

Heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees. Heat stroke can occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees.

If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

A 20-month old Carteret County girl died on April 22 after she was inadvertently left in a closed car for five hours.

Janice Skelly, a busy mother from Raleigh, said she is not so sure the stuffed-animal idea is realistic.

"I have a lot of stuffed animals in my car already," Skelly said, "diapers, bottles. It would be just one extra thing that would be in there.

"I think a sign, noise, I don't know. I agree that anything to help parents remember their kids would be important."

Some working parents have suggested putting a briefcase or purse in the backseat. That way, even if you forget to drop your child off, you would remember when you get to work.

Devlin and the Health Department encourage all caregivers to follow these tips concerning children, cars and heat:

  • Never leave your child in an unattended car, even with the windows down.
  • Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination, particularly when loading and unloading.
  • Do not overlook sleeping infants.
  • Make sure you check the temperature of the child safety-seat surface and safety-belt buckles before restraining your children in the car.
  • Make sure that unoccupied cars are locked, so that children do not accidentally become trapped.