It's hot. Very hot. The interior of the car feels like a sauna after baking in the hot sun all day.

Little "Joey," who has been left by his distracted parent or caretaker in his car seat in the car all day, doesn't stand a chance of surviving.

"Last year, 49 children died across the nation," said Sgt. Jennifer Haig of the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety.

"I think every parent says, ‘I can't leave my child in the car,' and yet it does happen."

It happened in Columbia just a week ago. A child was left in the car for four hours. Each of the parents told police they thought the other one had the child.

Paramedics tried to revive the child but it was too late. He was eight months old.

According to KidsAndCars.org, 500 children have died after being left in vehicles. A study shows 87 percent of those were ages 3 or under.

Haig says the high temperatures that adults endure when they get into their vehicles are simply unbearable to a child.

"A child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than for adults," she said.

Haig gave a demonstration on just how fast the temperature inside a vehicle can climb.

A thermometer left in her own extended-cab pickup truck climbed from 84 to 114 degrees F. in 40 minutes.

"The heat is clearly unbearable," she said.

At just 105 degrees, heat stroke can occur in a child, Haig said. But the interior of vehicles parked in the level of heat the area has experienced lately can soar to 140 degrees F. and higher.

KidsAndCars.org suggests parents develop habits that can ensure no child is left in a vehicle.

One tip is to put something the individual absolutely needs - a wallet or purse - in the back seat with their child. Or open a rear door every time they get out of the vehicle, just to make sure their child isn't there.

"My favorite is to put a stuffed animal in the car seat when the baby's not in the seat, and then put the stuffed animal beside you in the front seat when the child is in the car seat," Haig said.

That Teddy Bear could save the life of a child, she said.

Experts say a sleeping child is more easily forgotten than many realize. Loss of sleep, stress, illness, a change of habit can produce the conditions that were cited in cases where children have died.

The Washington Post covered a trial three years ago involving a Virginia man who left his toddler in a hot vehicle in July for nine hours. He had forgotten to drop his son off at the day-care.

Such terrible tragedies have legal ramifications, coupled with a lifetime of guilt.

"It's so tragic, but it seems like every year in South Carolina you hear where we have a child die in a hot car," First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe said.

Pascoe said in most cases he's seen in the state, the charge comes down to homicide by child abuse, which carries a 20-year prison sentence.

"That's the most likely charge," he said.

The Virginia man who left his toddler in the car was eventually found not guilty. But that would be very rare where no neglect is found, Pascoe said.

At the very least, parents could face an involuntary manslaughter charge to go with a life of guilt, he said.

"If you‘re in neglect that causes the death of a child, you're going to be charged," Pascoe said.

Haig said the ODPS files charges even if a child is left in a vehicle for only a moment.

"Anything could happen. A kid could bump it into gear, someone could take the child," she said.

"The biggest thing I want to get across is the risk factor, (the belief) that it could never happen to me.

"Just prevent it."

If anyone sees a child left inside a parked vehicle, they are asked to call police.

"Don't be afraid when you're in a parking lot to look around," Haig said. "If you see a child alone in a car, call 911 immediately."

Contact the writer: rwalker@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

 

(1) comment

tinkerbell

it is child abuse to do this!!!!

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