BAKERSFIELD - As temperatures in Bakersfield continue to rise, so does the risk of vehicular hyperthermia, or heat stroke – especially when young children are left unattended in vehicles. Kaitlyn’s Law was adopted in 2002 in the wake of the death of 6 month old Kaitlyn Russell who was left unattended in 100 degree heat by her babysitter for several hours and later found dead.
Kaitlyn’s Law makes it illegal for children aged six years or younger to be left unattended in a vehicle without supervision of a person who is 12 years or older when: there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety, and when the vehicle’s engine is running and/or the vehicle’s key is in the ignition.
Regardless of how or why a child is left behind, the end result can be devastating. Studies have shown that within 20 minutes the air temperature in a small car exposed to the sun on a 95° F day exceeded 122° F inside. Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 150° F. Leaving a window slightly opened or cracked did little to prevent the temperature from rising to a level dangerous for children, vulnerable adults and pets. No matter what the weather is like, or length of time you need to be away from your vehicle, leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is very risky, and can result in tragedy.
Leaving children in cars poses many dangers besides hyperthermia. Dangers to children left unattended in cars include: carbon monoxide poisoning, runaway vehicles, carjacking, child abduction, trunk entrapment and emotional trauma.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and SAFE KIDS recommend following these safety rules to avoid heat-related injuries or other vehicle dangers:
1. Never leave a child alone in or around a vehicle.
2. Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination, particularly when loading and unloading. Don't overlook sleeping infants.
3. Place a reminder of your child's presence where you'll be sure to see it before leaving the vehicle (diaper bag next to your briefcase, baby blanket under your lunch, etc.)
4. Never leave a child in a vehicle with the motor running or the key in the ignition.
5. Keep car keys away from children at all times.
6. Always lock your car, even at home, and remind your friends and neighbors to do the same.
7. Teach children not to play in, on or around cars.
8. Keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent children from getting into the trunk from inside the car.
9. Dial 9-1-1 immediately if you see young children left unattended in vehicles.
10. Heat in vehicles is also a risk to seniors and pets.
For any questions or additional information please contact the Bakersfield Police Department Crime Prevention Unit at (661) 326-3024.
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