PHOENIX – “Don’t Leave Me Behind!” is the message motorists will see on a mobile billboard truck travelling throughout Maricopa County this summer, warning of the dangers of leaving young children and animals in unattended vehicles. The rolling signage, which features images of a child and a small dog left inside a parked car, is part of a public awareness campaign created by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office aimed at reducing the number of deaths and injuries resulting from vehicular heatstroke.
“The mercury has just climbed into triple digits and already we have had at least four incidents where children have been left alone in parked cars,” noted Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “We want to remind residents that leaving an unattended child or pet in a vehicle is not only extremely dangerous but potentially fatal and, in certain circumstances, a criminal offense.”
Vehicular heatstroke is the number one cause of death in non-collision fatalities for children 14 and younger, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since 1998, 637 children have died nationwide as a result of adults leaving them in a vehicle. Data compiled by the non-profit KidsandCars.org rank Arizona as one of the top five states for these fatalities.
The risk of vehicular heatstroke can occur in air temperatures of 80 degrees or less and even as low as 57 degrees. Interior temperatures can quickly rise to 125 degrees 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 to not notice them when the vehicle is parked.
“These deaths are entirely preventable and we hope this campaign gets the word out to people that they absolutely must not leave a loved one behind in a vehicle even for a brief period of time,” Montgomery remarked.
In addition to the mobile billboard, the County Attorney’s vehicular heatstroke awareness campaign includes public service announcements that will air on local TV outlets, a car window shade displaying the “Don’t Leave Me Behind!” message, and additional information and safety tips at www.safekidsaz.org/vehicular-heatstroke.