It does not matter if it’s your first Arizona Summer or you’re a Valley Native, triple-digit temperatures always feel worse than we either imagined or remembered. As the mercury rises, we start our summer traditions of testing the limits of our air conditioners and searching out the tiniest sliver of shade to park. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is also kicking off a summer tradition of making sure drivers know kids and pets cannot be left in parked cars.
This summer the Office is excited to partner with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Arizona Humane Society and Penguin Air & Plumbing for the “Don’t Leave Me Behind!” vehicular heatstroke awareness campaign. The campaign officially started on May 8 and will run until August 31, giving the campaign a full four months to raise awareness and keep the number of incidents of children and pets left in hot cars to zero.
“Deaths associated with hot cars are a completely preventable tragedy for both our children and our pets,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “My personal challenge to every one of us in Maricopa County is to ensure no child or pet is lost to vehicular heatstroke this year.”
Vehicular heatstroke is listed as the number one cause of deaths in non-collision vehicle fatalities for children 14 and younger, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is important to know that the risk of vehicular heatstroke can occur in air temperatures of 80 degrees or less and even as low as 57 degrees. Interior temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels even with the windows slightly rolled down. Young children are especially at risk because they can fall asleep during a car ride, making it easier for a driver not to notice them when the vehicle is parked, and for infants who are less capable of regulating their body temperature.
“We lead busy lives, especially as parents of young children,” says Todd Nickoles, manager of Phoenix Children’s Center for Family Health and Safety. “We want parents and caregivers to know how much of a ‘hot zone’ that their vehicle can be, and never to leave a child alone in a car, truck or van.”
The SafeKidsAZ.org webpage is filled with information, tips and videos to help spread the message and educate our Community about this issue. The site also reminds residents that leaving a child or pet in a vehicle is potentially fatal and, in some circumstances, a criminal offense.
“Last year, the passing of House Bill 2494, which aims to end hot car deaths, gives good Samaritans and AHS’ animal cruelty investigators an additional tool to save a life when necessary,” said Arizona Humane Society President and CEO, Dr. Steven Hansen. “It is our hope that through education and awareness we can work together to prevent these tragedies before it reaches that point.”
You are encouraged to help the campaign achieve its goal of zero incidents of children and pets left in hot cars this summer by using the hashtag #DontLeaveMeBehind and help to spread awareness.