July 7, 2014 7:49 pm

Officials warn of the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car

Watch the video above: Man charged after toddler found alone in vehicle outside bar

SASKATOON – It’s a timely reminder to all parents to never leave your child unattended in a car.

Over the weekend, Prince Albert police arrested a man for child abandonment after it’s believed he left a child in a parked car, with the windows rolled up for an hour.

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At the time, the temperature was 24 degrees outside, with 62 per cent humidity.

Police say the little boy was unharmed and has been taken into protective custody.

His caregiver, a 35-year-old man now faces charges of unlawfully abandoning a child under the age of 10 years, therefore endangering the child’s life.

The accused is set to appear again in court on July 15.

Meanwhile, authorities are warning the public about the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles.

“It really doesn’t matter whether the car is left with the windows cracked for a safety measure or not, that heat will rise within the vehicle very, very quickly,” said Andrew Williamson, director of operations with M.D. Ambulance.

A car exposed to the sun in 35 degree Celsius can soar to 50 degrees within 20 minutes.

“Some days it may seem mild because there’s a breeze or because there’s some cloud cover but cars can heat up very quickly and you see that especially in darker-coloured cars that absorb heat,” said Lewis Smith, from the Canada Safety Council.

With temperatures inside a vehicle climbing so quickly, a child’s internal temperature regulation is overwhelmed and sent into shock.

They’re sweat glands aren’t fully developed so they’re even more at risk of not being able to cool their body down, also they have a wider surface area on their head to absorb the heat through.”

Heat stroke occurs at 40.5 degrees Celsius and can result in severe organ damage or death.

“There’s been studies that actually show a kid’s body temperature rises about three times faster than an adults in the same conditions,” said Smith.

Experts say while there is no Canadian data tracking vehicular heat stroke fatalities, there are at least 38 deaths a year in the United States.

Smith adds that in less than one per cent of cases, the parents did it intentionally.

“Most of the time it’s just a broken routine or temporary moment of forgetfulness maybe a distract and they just don’t realize the kids in the car with them so they’re not monsters, it just doesn’t cross their mind,” said Smith.

All the more reason paramedics urge the public to be aware of their surroundings.

If you are a vehicle owner, always remember to ensure the doors and trunk to your vehicle are locked if  left unattended.

“If a child enters an unlocked vehicle and can’t find their way out, that’s a different beginning but the same outcome,” said Smith.

Experts recommend putting a cellphone or purse in the back seat as a memory cue or a toy in the front seat as a visual reminder, just in case you’ve mistakenly gone to work with your child.

Other safety tips recommended by kidsandcars.org include the following:

  • Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. This will soon become a habit. We call this the “Look Before You Lock” campaign.
  • Make sure all child passengers have left the vehicle after it is parked.
  • When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately.
  • Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.
  • Use drive-thru services when available. (restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc.)
  • Use your debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump.
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