With the hottest days of summer just around the corner, a Georgia campaign to prevent children from being left in cars serves as a warning to parents and caretakers throughout the country.
Each year, an average of 38 children across the United States die from overheating in vehicles, according to KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit automotive safety organization.
The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA) and other state officials have produced a web video to remind parents and caretakers it’s never safe to leave children alone in a vehicle. The video also urges them to “look again” before leaving a car, van or bus to make sure there are no kids sleeping or hiding inside.
“On an 80 degree day, a car parked in the sunshine with the windows up can quickly get to around 140 degrees,” said former DECAL Commissioner Bobby Cagle, who now heads the state’s Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). “A child’s body heats three to five times faster than that of an adult. And the younger the child, the more susceptible they are to this kind of heatstroke.”
Even when parked at home, state officials recommend parents lock their vehicles to prevent young children from venturing inside on their own and becoming trapped.
In 2010, 6-year-old Sydney Stanley of Evans, Ga., died after apparently trying to retrieve a Sunday school project from her family SUV. Her parents thought she was playing at a neighbor’s house.
In the video, Jenny Stanley tearfully recalls how she came upon her daughter as paramedics tried to resuscitate her.
“I remember walking in the garage door, seeing her laying in the foyer and just begging them, ‘Save her!’ A lady comes back in sand says, ‘It’s just too late.’ We went and sat in the ambulance, held her hands and just cried,” Stanley recalled.
The campaign also features the story of Jazmin Green, a 2-year-old who died from heatstroke in 2011 after workers at her Metro Atlanta daycare center accidentally left her in a van.
No child deaths have been reported at Georgia daycare centers since the Jazmin Green incident three years ago. However, DECAL records indicate that 21 children were left in vehicles by childcare providers in fiscal year (FY) 2012, 17 in FY 2013 and, so far, 18 in FY 2014 (which ends on June 30).
State officials hope to bring future statistics to zero by getting caretakers in the habit of thoroughly double checking vehicles when they park. But they also hope their campaign resonates with the rest of the country and prevents anyone driving with a child from making a fatal mistake.