Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

July 18, 2013

Carrie Stambaugh: Hot cars dangerous to leave children in: 07/19/13

ASHLAND — I witnessed a spectacle unlike any I’ve every seen at the grocery store this week.

“The hotter it gets, the crazier people act,” the woman in line behind me muttered as calm finally returned to the checkout lines.

The oppressive heat wave much of the country has been suffering for the last few days was certainly what caused the commotion.

 It turns out a woman had left a child, or children, in her car outside while shopping in the store. Although I don’t know all the details, I do know someone recognized the situation and reported it to management. They, in turn, promptly described the vehicle over the store’s speaker asking the owner to come to the front.

When a woman arrived there and was told the situation was unacceptable given the extreme heat, things got heated inside the store, too.

The woman stomped out of the store, hurling expletives and insults at the manager while the rest of the customers in line held their collective breath in shock. Among her yelled remarks as she left was that, “people should mind their own business.”

As the clerk in my line began scanning items again, he began shaking his head. Then he said: “What was she thinking? It’s just too hot outside.”

“I would have called the sheriff’s office,” the clerk on the next row opined, as others shook their heads in agreement. “They should have,” someone else added.

“I would have called 911 immediately,” I offered. “It’s just too dangerous in this heat. Now, my husband would have probably broken out a window first, then called authorities.”

When you’re married to a firefighter you learn a few things, and children being left in cars really gets him fired up. I relayed the story to him at home and as suspected, his face quickly grew hot with anger. He agreed, he would have busted a window to free the children and commended whomever alerted the store authorities quickly.

It can take as little as 15 minutes for a child to die of heatstroke in a car on a 75-degree day. Rolling the windows down or parking in the shade just doesn’t cut it either, the car still becomes super-heated.

A study by San Fransisco State University found within 10 minutes the temperature inside a car increases 19 degrees, and after 20 minutes it can jump 29 degrees.

According to KidsandCars.org, an average of 38 children die each year in the United States from heatstroke after being being trapped inside motor vehicles. Most of these children are inadvertently left, making it unfathomable that a parent would intentionally leave children unattended on a day like yesterday.

Already this year, 22 confirmed deaths from heat stroke have occurred. There was one this week in Louisville.

Sadly, every one of those deaths was preventable. I am grateful to those who took action Wednesday and maybe saved a life.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com.

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