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With temperatures rising as summer approaches, safety experts are sounding the alarm on the dangers of leaving children unattended in hot cars.

Virginia ranks ninth in the U.S. for child deaths in hot cars, according to Kids and Car Safety. Over 1,000 children have died in hot cars in Virginia in the past three decades — which is one every 10 days.

May through September are the months with the highest risk for hot car deaths, according to a May 28 joint press release from the AAA Mid-Atlantic, Richmond Ambulance Authority, the Virginia Department of Health, Child Care Aware of Virginia and BabyIn BabyOut.

BabyIn BabyOut provides brightly colored rearview mirror hangtags that help to remind parents of their children who may be sitting in the backseat of their car.

Safety officials and the National Weather Service emphasize that within ten minutes, a car’s interior temperature can surge by 20 degrees — a potentially deadly environment for a child left unattended.

Tragically, many of these incidents occur when children are left in vehicles by responsible guardians. The advocacy group Kids and Car Safety reports that nearly 40 children succumb to hot car deaths annually, with more than half of these incidents being unintentional. Fatigue or disruptions in parents’ routine often contribute to these lapses in awareness.

Lieutenant Xavier Smith with the Richmond Ambulance Authority highlighted the grave consequences of heat exposure for children trapped in cars, stressing the urgency of preventive measures.

Smith recounted witnessing about ten such cases during his tenure, urging caregivers to remain vigilant, as children’s bodies are less resilient to extreme temperatures.

While some cases result from forgetfulness, others stem from children inadvertently gaining access to vehicles and being unable to exit. Smith emphasized the critical need for caregivers to employ reminders, such as placing items in the front seat, to prevent these tragedies.

“You just want to make sure you’re not leaving your child in a hot car, making sure you look behind you before exiting your vehicle and to keep your keys out of their reach,” Smith said.

According to the Richmond Ambulance Authority, children’s bodies can heat up three to five times faster than adults’, necessitating swift action to avert potential deaths. Officials caution caregivers to thoroughly search their vehicles and surrounding areas if a child goes missing, including checking trunks and neighboring cars.

“Regardless how inconvenient it is, it’s so important to – especially in the summer months,” Smith said. “Even if you keep a diaper bag in the front seat just so you can look over and remind yourself your child is in the backseat.”