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Montgomery: Keep kids and pets safe — don’t leave them in cars

Posted 8/8/19

We are in the last month of our summer-long “Don’t Leave Me Behind” Vehicular Heatstroke Campaign; but even as we look toward a triumphant conclusion we cannot let our guard down as it is still …

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Montgomery: Keep kids and pets safe — don’t leave them in cars


We are in the last month of our summer-long “Don’t Leave Me Behind” Vehicular Heatstroke Campaign; but even as we look toward a triumphant conclusion we cannot let our guard down as it is still far too hot to leave a child or pet in a parked car.

I urge caregivers to be even more vigilant as the school year starts and new routines can leave us vulnerable to rushing and forgetting. Whether you are a parent, guardian, caregiver, uncle, aunt, neighbor or friend helping out, if you have a child in the backseat you have precious cargo.

You must remember they are there and remember your responsibility: it is never OK to leave a child or pet behind in a parked car.

Heat warnings and high temperatures are still in our immediate future and in our heat, a vehicle’s interior can spike 20 degrees in just ten minutes. However, even when the temperature outside is only in the 60s, a parked vehicle can still reach more than 110 degrees inside.

Children and pets are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke in hot cars because their body temperature can rise faster than an adult’s.

After five separate incidents of young children being left inside of hot cars across the West Valley this summer, there is clearly a continuing need for us all to stay aware of the dangers inherent in leaving children in cars during hot weather. Luckily, in every one of those incidents, the children were rescued before they suffered severe injuries.

This type of tragedy is 100% preventable, but you must first be aware that it is a possibility.

Again, especially as routines begin to change with the start of a new school year, you cannot let your guard down or believe that it cannot happen to you. The same holds true for our pets.

This summer there have been many close calls, including a dog named Suzie, who was found by police officers after being left in a hot car for six hours. The resilient German Shepherd luckily made a full recovery and is now enjoying a new forever home.

Our campaign has been fortunate to have forged partnerships with the Arizona Humane Society, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, all of whom are committed to getting through this summer free from deadly tragedies. This resolve was only strengthened by the loss of a young life in April, sadly just a month before our annual awareness campaign had the chance to begin.

However, from that tragedy there was a push to proclaim, “Not one more!” and we are just weeks from bringing that to reality. This is an achievable goal and our community accomplished it just last year.

In 2018, we were able to celebrate the end of the “Don’t Leave Me Behind” campaign by reaching our goal of having zero lives lost. We achieved this despite it being the deadliest year nationwide with 52 children dying of heatstroke after being left in a vehicle.

Having a good strategy to remember there is a child or pet in the backseat, especially when you are outside of your normal routine, is the best way to prevent tragedy from happening. Some popular methods include leaving your phone in the backseat, especially now that you should not have it in your hands while driving.

You can also leave your key fob in the back seat if you have a car with keyless entry and the car will alert you if you try to lock the door and walk away.

For the second summer, good Samaritans also have helped by intervening to save a child or pet from imminent danger. Arizona law provides civil and criminal protections to those who need to help a child or pet in distress if they follow certain steps.

These include calling 911 first, checking that the vehicle is locked and there is no other entry point to rescue the child or pet, and using no more force if necessary to gain entry and rescue the victim.

The “Don’t Leave Me Behind” campaign officially ends on Saturday, Aug. 31 and all the partners hope to join with our community to celebrate achieving this summer’s goal of not one more.

For more information on the campaign or helpful reminders for caregivers, you can go to the campaign page at our website: www.maricopacountyattorney.org/317/Vehicular-Heatstroke.

Editor’s note: Bill Montgomery is Maricopa County Attorney. Learn more at www.safekidsaz.org.