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Phoenix's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Phoenix, Arizona | 12NEWS.com

Experts are seeing an increase in hot car deaths involving children

"We want parents to get into the habit of opening the back door of their car and checking the back seat every time," said Rollins.

PHOENIX — As temperatures continue to soar in the Valley, it’s a reminder of how the heat can turn deadly in many ways - including kids being left in hot cars.

It’s every parent's worst nightmare. Since 1994, 44 children have died after being left in a hot car, and Arizona ranks 4th highest in the country. But experts say it can be prevented.

Dawn Peabody lost her daughter Maya in 2008 after she was accidentally left in the car after the family returned home from grabbing breakfast with grandparents.

"Maya was not with grandma. Maya was not in her bed. Maya was still in the family vehicle and she passed away," said Dawn.  

She is now an advocate for the group Kids and Cars and says even though it's hard to believe for some, it's easy for people use to routines to forget things when that routine changes. 

"What seems like a normal routine at the time? Just a little change in that can trick our brain into thinking we don't have precious cargo in the back seat," said Dawn.  

"In Arizona, the way that the heat is down there a young child is in a critical situation within minutes," said Director of Kids and Cars, Amber Rollins. 

Experts say the Arizona sun can quickly turn the inside of a car into an oven. For example, if it's 95 degrees outside, in just 10 mins a car's interior will climb to 114 degrees. In 30 mins, nearly 130 degrees. 

Rollins says the pandemic isn't helping. COVID-19 has changed everyone's routines with more kids staying home due to the virus. 

"On a typical year, the average number of children get into vehicles on their own and can't get back out is about 26%, this year about 47% of the fatalities are children who got in on their own and can't get out," said Rollins.  

Both women say parents can do simple things to develop new routines.  

"We want parents to get into the habit of opening the back door of their car and checking the back seat every time," said Rollins.  

"I encourage parents to make sure the keys are not where children can get them," said Peabody. 

The group is advocating law called the "Hot Cars Act of 2019" which would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue a rule requiring all new passenger motor vehicles to be equipped with a child safety alert system, and for other purposes.

Also, SB 1601, to direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue a rule requiring all new passenger motor vehicles to be equipped with a child safety alert system, and for other purposes.