NEW YORK, NY. (NBC News) – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Safe Kids Worldwide are again warning parents about leaving their children in hot cars this summer.
At least 17 children died of heatstroke vehicle deaths across the United States so far this year. Ten of them died just within the last six weeks.
The officials said those deaths are preventable. They are calling on parents to be aware of the dangers.
Five years ago, Reginald McKinnon forgot his daughter Payton in her car seat when he went to work. The 17-month-old died after spending almost an entire day trapped in the SUV under the hot Florida sun. McKinnon, who was sentenced to five years of probation and community service, is now honoring her memory by educating others.
“Heat stroke is serious, it is deadly, it is dangerous but it’s also 100 percent avoidable, we can stop the 44 deaths that happened last year, the more that 600 deaths that have happened since 1998 alone”, said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman.
“Young children are particularly at risk as their body heats up three to five times faster that an adult’s”, said Kate Carr, the President of Safe Kids Worldwide. “And they can not cool themselves as quickly or understand how to open a door and get out of the car seat like an adult could.”
Reginald McKinnon recalled, “I opened the backdoor of my SUV to put down my laptop. That exact moment I’ll never forget. To my horror I realized Payton was in her car seat. And it was the last thing I remember, I heard someone screaming and it was me, the rest is just a blur.”
An average of 38 children has died in hot cars each year across the country since 1998.