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L.A. County Warns Against Leaving Children in Cars

August 14, 2004|Sue Fox | Times Staff Writer

As sizzling summer temperatures heat up the region, Los Angeles County is launching a campaign to warn people not to leave children in parked cars.

Last August, a UC Irvine professor left his infant son in a locked car on a campus parking lot for more than three hours in 80-degree weather. He had apparently forgotten the child was there.

Authorities smashed a window to remove the baby, but the 10-month-old was pronounced dead by paramedics. The man was not charged in the incident, which was deemed a mistake.

A month earlier, a foster mother who operated a day-care center in Lancaster forgot to take her boys, ages 3 and 5, out of her sport utility vehicle for five hours as the desert sun pushed the temperature to 100 degrees. Both children died, and the mother was sentenced to six months in jail. Last year, 42 children in the United States died after being left in vehicles during hot weather, according to county officials.

"It's vital that parents are aware of the fatal dangers of leaving children in vehicles unattended," said county Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who had urged the public information campaign. "These deaths are preventable."

Parked vehicles can quickly heat up to lethal levels, particularly for small children and pets. When outside temperatures are above 80 degrees, a car parked in direct sunlight can reach an internal temperature of more than 130 degrees in as little as 15 minutes.

County officials, with help from Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, plan to distribute posters to government agencies and businesses. The posters depict a toddler strapped into a car seat, with the words: "Not even for a minute! NEVER leave children unattended in a car." And passersby are reminded to call for help if they notice a child left inside a parked car.

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