The plea to protect our most vulnerable citizens was made during a news conference at the Memphis Child Advocacy Center at 1085 Poplar Avenue.
"There is never a good reason to leave a child in a car,” said Gen. Weirich. “When the temperature rises, it is criminal to do so and possibly deadly. Let's work together as a community to keep our kids safe this summer. Ask yourself, your friends, your co-workers: ‘Are the kids out of the car???’”
If a child sustains bodily injury as a result of being left in a vehicle, the responsible adult could face criminal charges of child abuse, child neglect or endangerment.
If the child suffers serious bodily injury, the adult could face charges of aggravated child abuse and/or aggravated child neglect or endangerment.
If the child is under 8 or if the victim suffers from physical or mental disability, the responsible adult could face class "A" felony charges with penalties of up to 25 years in prison or more.
If the child, or victim, dies from being left inside a vehicle, the responsible adult could also face homicide charges.
“We don’t want to raise the Children’s Memorial Flag for any child who died needlessly because he was left in a hot car,” said Virginia Stallworth, executive director of Memphis Child Advocacy Center. “Everyone needs to be mindful of the danger.”
Tennessee law also makes it a violation for an adult responsible for a child under age 7 to leave that child unattended in a vehicle on public property, including at any shopping center, trailer park, apartment complex or at any other premises generally frequented by the public. This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days imprisonment or a $200 fine.
Studies by the San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences show that more than 600 children have died from vehicular hyperthermia or dying inside hot automobiles since 1998.
Some 52 percent of these deaths were due to child victims being accidentally left, or forgotten, inside a vehicle. More than half of these fatalities were children under the age of two and almost 30 percent resulted from children playing inside unattended vehicles. Eighteen percent were determined to have been intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult.
Through June 27, 2014, at least 13 children have died nationwide due to vehicular hyperthermia, according to San Francisco State University's Department of Geosciences. Heat stroke is noted as the cause of death in each case.
Additionally, cases of non-fatal heat illness from vehicular hyperthermia are estimated to be in the hundreds annually. These deaths and incidents are entirely preventable.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (McLaren, Null & James, 2005), found that the temperature inside a vehicle increases 80 percent in the first 30 minutes. Thus, with an outdoor temperature of 80 degrees, the inside temperature of an automobile can jump to more than 120 degrees in less than an hour.
Cracking the windows doesn’t decrease the rate of temperature increase.
Vehicles get hot quickly, and are dangerous for anyone, especially children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
So please remember to ask yourself this summer: “Are the kids out of the car?”