Campaign reminding all of dangers if kids, pets left in parked cars

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is kicking off a summer tradition of making sure drivers know kids and pets cannot be left in parked cars.

Officials will be at the 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 6, monthly Coffee with a Chief at the Paradise Valley Police Department’s station, 6433 E. Lincoln Drive, to present their “Don’t Leave Me Behind” campaign focusing on vehicular heatstroke of children and pets being left inside parked vehicles.

County representatives will also provide education on the new “Good Samaritan” law and how it can allow people to rescue a child or pet without the risk of civil liability, according to a release.

This summer the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is partnering with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Arizona Humane Society and Penguin Air and Plumbing for the “Don’t Leave Me Behind” vehicular heatstroke awareness campaign.

The campaign officially started on May 8 and will run until Aug. 31, giving the campaign a full four months to raise awareness and keep the number of incidents of children and pets left in hot cars to zero.

Bill Montgomery. (Submitted photo)

“Deaths associated with hot cars are a completely preventable tragedy for both our children and our pets,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a release.

“My personal challenge to every one of us in Maricopa County is to ensure no child or pet is lost to vehicular heatstroke this year,” he said in the release.

Vehicular heatstroke is listed as the No. 1 cause of deaths in non-collision vehicle fatalities for children 14 and younger, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“It is important to know that the risk of vehicular heatstroke can occur in air temperatures of 80 degrees or less and even as low as 57 degrees,” according to the release.

“Interior temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels 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 not to notice them when the vehicle is parked, and for infants who are less capable of regulating their body temperature,” according to the release.

“We lead busy lives, especially as parents of young children,” Todd Nickoles, manager of Phoenix Children’s Center for Family Health and Safety, said in the release.

“We want parents and caregivers to know how much of a ‘hot zone’ that their vehicle can be and never to leave a child alone in a car, truck or van,” he said.

The SafeKidsAZ.org webpage is filled with information, tips and videos to help spread the message and educate the community about the issue.

The site also reminds residents that leaving a child or pet in a vehicle is potentially fatal and, in some circumstances, a criminal offense.

“Last year, the passing of House Bill 2494, which aims to end hot car deaths, gives good Samaritans and AHS’ animal cruelty investigators an additional tool to save a life when necessary,” Arizona Humane Society President and CEO Dr. Steven Hansen said in the release.

“It is our hope that through education and awareness we can work together to prevent these tragedies before it reaches that point,” he said.

Area residents are encouraged to help the campaign achieve its goal of zero incidents of children and pets left in hot cars this summer by using the hashtag #DontLeaveMeBehind and help to spread awareness, according to the release.

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