Kaitlyn’s Law is named in memory of Kaitlyn Marie Russell who, in August 2000, was left alone in a vehicle for two hours on a warm California day, and died as a result. The purpose of Kaitlyn’s Law (Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Safety Act) is to help prevent the injuries and death of young children left in hot vehicles, as well as educate parents and caretakers about such dangers.
In the hot summer months it only takes minutes for the temperature in a car’s interior to become dangerously high. Last August my partner and I bought a dozen chocolate chip cookies and placed them on a cookie sheet in the front window of our patrol car. In four hours we had freshly baked cookies. Although the experiment was fun, it proves the point that leaving anybody or any animal in the vehicle can be deadly. Heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children. Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or bystander of a child left in a vehicle, it is essential to understand that children are more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults.
Kaitlyn’s Law prohibits anyone from leaving a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle without the supervision of someone at least 12 years of age or older. If you see a child alone in a car on a hot day, do something! Do not worry about getting in someone else’s business – protecting children is everyone’s business.
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Here are a few things you can do to save a child:
▪ Do not wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return. If the child is not responsive or is in distress, immediately call 9-1-1, get the child out of the car and spray the child with cool water.
▪ If the child is responsive, stay with the child until help arrives and have someone else search for the driver.
▪ Never leave a child in a vehicle with the motor running or the key in the ignition.
▪ Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination. Don’t overlook sleeping children or infants. Place a reminder of your child’s presence where you’ll be sure to see it before leaving the vehicle (diaper bag next to your purse or backpack, baby blanket under your lunch or any other type of reminder of your child’s presence).
▪ When shopping at the grocery store, ask the clerks to load your bags into your vehicle and return the cart instead of leaving a child alone, even for an instant.
▪ Always lock your car, even in the garage or driveways. If a child is missing, immediately check the car, including the trunk.
▪ Never leave car keys within reach of children. Teach children never to play in, on or around cars. Make it a habit to check the inside of your vehicle before exiting.
▪ Never let children ride or play in the cargo area, trunk or bed of any vehicle.
▪ If a child is locked inside a vehicle, get him/her out as quickly as possible. Call 9-1-1 for assistance if necessary. If a child appears hot or sick, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Heatstroke can and will kill. I once had heatstroke, and it is no joke. Your body gives you warnings; here are some of the signs to look for: Red, hot, and dry skin. The body stops sweating. Your pulse is strong and rapid or very weak. You can experience nausea, and your behavior can be strange, and you can experience confusion.
The current heat wave is leading families to seek refuge in cooler places such as parks, beaches, shopping centers and water parks. As you go to cool off at these locations, please be on the look-out for kids and pets that may have been left unattended in a locked vehicle. If you see a child left unattended, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1. You could save a life in doing so.