As Arizona settles into triple-digit temperatures, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has launched its “Don’t Leave Me Behind!” vehicular heatstroke awareness campaign. A mobile billboard truck will be travelling throughout Maricopa County this summer, warning of the dangers of leaving young children and animals in unattended vehicles.
“Every year we see this very preventable tragedy occur, claiming the lives of children and pets,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “We want to remind residents that leaving a child or pet in a vehicle is potentially fatal and, in some circumstances, a criminal offense.”
The rolling signage, which features images of a child and a small dog left inside a parked car, is part of a public awareness campaign created by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office aimed at reducing the number of deaths and injuries resulting from vehicular heatstroke.
Vehicular heatstroke is No. 1 cause of death in non-collision fatalities for children 14 and younger, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since 1998, 668 children have died nationwide as a result of adults leaving them in a vehicle—11 already this year (as of June 9).
Data compiled by the nonprofit KidsandCars.org rank Arizona as one of the top five states for these fatalities. Statistics compiled by San Jose State University ranked Arizona third nationally for child deaths due to heatstroke from being left in a hot car.
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 125 degrees 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 to not notice them when the vehicle is parked. Safety experts advise leaving something you will need in the back seat, such as a purse, wallet or cell phone, as a reminder to always check the back seats for children or pets when arriving at your destination.
The County Attorney’s Office will be providing regular updates on sightings of the billboard through Facebook and Twitter, as well as information and safety tips. For more information on vehicular heatstroke and safety tips, visit the SafeKidsAZ website at www.safekidsaz.org/vehicular-heatstroke.