The Dangers of Leaving Your Children in a Hot Car


WINCHESTER, Va. - The year is far from over and already 13 children have died after being left too long in a hot car.  

In 2013, 44 children died from heatstroke after being left unattended in a car. The Virginia heat claimed three of those lives following Florida and California. These “hot” states each had four recorded heatstroke deaths.

Only 20 states, including Maryland and Pennsylvania in the four-state region, have laws addressing this issue. Heatstroke leaders Florida and California also have legislation in place.

State Senator Jill Vogel (R-Upperville), who is also a mother of four children, said it's time for Virginia to follow suit.

"I’ve introduced legislation in the past that would make it a crime to leave children unattended in a vehicle,” said Vogel.

While it didn’t pass at the time, she said the issue hasn’t gone away. Vogel said passing legislation is absolutely necessary in order to do two things, prosecute offenders and educate parents.

“Better than a public service announcement, which clearly hasn't happened on the issue or hasn't happened enough. If you pass legislation and you make it the law that it is illegal to leave your child unattended in a car, more people are going to become aware of it,” said Vogel.

A study done by San Francisco State University stated that even on a 72 degree day in just ten minutes a car's internal temperature can increase by 19 degrees.

Combine that with the fact that a child's body temperature heats up three to five times faster than an adult and you've got a lethal combination.

Retired Sheriff of Winchester, Lenny Millholland, has seen the destruction of heatstroke firsthand.

"In 1995 I had a child that was left in a car by its mother. This child stayed in there the whole time that she was at work, which was in excess of eight hours,” said Millholland, recounting the details. “When I went out there and investigated it, the child had basically melted into the car seat, in the back seat of the car.”

“From that point on, I was going to do anything I could to get legislation passed,” said Millholland.

"I feel confident that eventually the legislature will come around and they will say, “Yes, this is a significant risk to children, and it warrants passing legislation,’" said Vogel.

Vogel plans to reintroduce the legislation that would make it a class four misdemeanor to leave young children unattended in a vehicle. 


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