Dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles
NORFOLK, Neb. -- 966 children have died in the United States due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke, or PHV, since 1998 with four of those deaths happening right here in Nebraska and the latest Nebraskan death happening just this past August.
According to Kids and Cars Safety, 88% of children who have died in hot cars were three or younger as it's known that their bodies overheat three to five times faster than an adult.
Family Nurse Practitioner Jenny Staman with Midtown Health Center said that being exposed to such extreme temperatures can begin to trigger organ failure.
"When we're exposed to that external temperature like in a hot vehicle, we will heat up faster, and when our core body temperature gets over 104 that's considered heat stroke and can be very detrimental especially to a young child and when we're getting to that point, we're also getting to organ damage which is ultimately leading to death,” Staman said.
The latest occurrence of a child being left in a hot vehicle was in Stanton County on Monday, as a five-and-a-half-month-old baby boy was left in the vehicle for 40 to 45 minutes.
The child was rescued in time, although vehicles internal temperatures can reach 125 degrees within minutes even if a window is cracked.
"Our windows are working like a greenhouse on a car in the heat,” Staman said. “Obviously the car is making our car hotter, and cracking a window does nothing for them."
Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger said that these cases can happen in these areas.
"This is a very rare incident in this area, but these things do happen,” Unger said. “But we are going to follow up make sure if any family services need to be given by health and human services or again if there's something that we're unaware of we would pursue charges at that time."
Nebraska is one of 21 states with legal statutes against children being left in vehicles, enforcing the Under the Child Protection and Family Safety Act saying it is unlawful to leave any child under the age of six unattended in a motor vehicle.
Unger said that due to the accidental nature of this incident no charges have been brought against the father, but if further investigation proves otherwise, that could change.
"If it was ever found that this was intentional it would be child abuse and a worst-case scenario if a death was involved it could be anything from intentional homicide to child abuse resulting in death," Unger said.
If a child is seen unattended in a vehicle, immediately call 911, as they can already be dehydrated despite their physical appearance as they may appear dry with no sweat.
It is urged to also try to rescue said child and under legislative bill 832, or known as the Good Samaritan law, if you remove a child from a motor vehicle by forcible entry, you can receive immunity from criminal and civil liability.