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Thursday, June 18, 2009

TDOS Reminds Motorists Not To Leave Youngsters, Pets Inside Vehicles

   As we approach the summer months, the Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) reminds motorists that children and pets should never be left unattended inside a vehicle.

   “It is important to remember that children and pets can become ill from heat exhaustion when left in a hot car,” stated Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “Motorists should never leave a child or animal unattended in a car, even with the windows down. Even if it’s just a few moments, it’s extremely dangerous.”

   On a typical sunny, summer day, the temperature inside a car can reach potentially deadly levels within minutes. Experts say the damage can happen in as little as ten minutes. Even on a mild day at 73 degrees outside, an SUV can heat up to 100 degrees in ten minutes and to 120 degrees in just 30 minutes. At 90 degrees outside, the interior of a vehicle can heat up to 160 degrees within several minutes.

“Cracking the window to let air in does little to protect children from the effects of heat buildup in a parked car,” stated Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Mike Walker. “Not only could you suffer the loss of a loved one from leaving them in an unattended vehicle, you could face jail time and stiff penalties.”

   Heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees and heat stroke can occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. With respiratory systems that are still developing, children are particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion.

   Depending on the seriousness of the offense, a person can be charged with penalties ranging from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class A Felony for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. TCA Code 39-15-401 provides that “any person who knowingly, other than by accidental means, treats a child under eighteen years of age in such a manner as to inflict injury commits a Class A misdemeanor. If the abused child is six years of age or less, the penalty is a Class D felony. TCA Code 39-15-402 carries a possible Class B or Class A felony for aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment. Class A Misdemeanors carry a penalty of not greater than 11 months, 29 days or a fine up to $2,500, or both. Class A Felonies can carry a penalty of not less than 15 nor more than 60 years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $50,000.

   Last year, nationwide, there were at least 42 deaths in the United States due to hyperthermia after being left inside hot cars, trucks, vans and SUV’s. (Source: San Francisco State University)

   Make sure your child is safe this summer and always follow a few simple tips:

Safety Tips:

   The Tennessee Department of Human Services is taking similar steps to protect children transported by child care providers. To learn more, visit: Error! Reference source not found. and Error! Reference source not found..