PHOENIX – A mobile billboard truck will travel Valley streets and highways throughout the month of August carrying a warning message about the dangers of leaving an unattended child or a pet in a parked car. The signage, which depicts a child and a dog in a car with the windows rolled up and the words “Don’t Leave Me Behind,” is part of a broader public awareness effort by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office aimed at reducing the number of deaths and injuries related to vehicular heatstroke.
“These tragic incidents occur with an unfortunate regularity every summer and we believe many are preventable,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “We want to provide an impactful and visual reminder to people to make sure they don’t forget a child or pet when they park their vehicle,” he added.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 606 children died in vehicles due to heatstroke between 1998 and 2013, representing the number one cause of death in non-crash fatalities for children 14 and younger. More than half of these children were forgotten in the vehicle. 29% gained access by themselves and became trapped.
“A person who knowingly or intentionally exposes a child or an animal to the risk of heatstroke could be prosecuted for child abuse or animal cruelty under Arizona law,” Montgomery noted. “We will not hesitate to bring these charges where we have the evidence to support them.”
In addition to the mobile billboard, the “Don’t Leave Me Behind” campaign will include a public service announcement which will be broadcast on local televisions during August and September. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has also created a web site with facts, resources and safety tips on preventing vehicular heatstroke at www.SafeKidsAZ.org/vehicular-heatstroke.