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County official warns against leaving children, elderly in autos

Leaving a child in a car — even with engine running — is illegal

Posted: July 28, 2008 1:29 a.m.
Updated: September 28, 2008 5:02 a.m.
On the heels of news that a toddler was found dead inside a family vehicle comes word from the county health officer warning people not to leave children, old people or pets inside vehicles.

Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding has issued a press release reminding people it is dangerous to leave children, elderly or disabled persons, or pets alone in motor vehicles.

Fielding and the Department of Public Health remind vehicle owners that is illegal to leave a child alone inside a motor vehicle, even while the engine is running (Kaitlyn’s Law).

“The dangers of a hot vehicle not only affect children; the elderly and disabled are also at risk, as well as pets,” Fielding warns in the press release.

“Even if it is only 80 degrees outside, it takes just ten minutes for the inside of a vehicle to heat up to 100 degrees. Add another ten minutes and the temperature goes up to 109. As a driver, you are responsible for all of your passengers’ safety while the vehicle is running and when it is parked.”

Every year in the United States, 30 to 40 infant and toddler-aged children die from heat-related causes (hyperthermia) after being left alone in motor vehicles. In about half of these heat-related deaths, the caregiver reported being distracted and forgetting about the child in the car.

The county warnings come less than a week after news a two-year-old Canyon Country boy was found dead inside his family’s minivan.

On July 21, the body of Jack Roscoe Winchester, 23 months old, was found by his mother, according to investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, strapped in his carseat in the minivan.
The body had been in the vehicle, according to Lt. Dave Dolson, for about four hours.

An autopsy of the boy’s body was completed late last week.

The Coroner’s office and the Sheriff investigators are awaiting the results of tests before proceeding with any specific course of action.

Those results are expected in about six weeks.

To prevent heat-related motor vehicle deaths, public health officials advise:

n Never leave children, the elderly, disabled persons, or pets in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are “cracked,” the engine is running, or the vehicle is parked in the shade.

n Put something you’ll need - such as your wireless phone, handbag, lunch or briefcase- on the floor in the back to remind you to check the backseat of the vehicle.

n Get in the habit of opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach a destination.

n Before you leave your vehicle, check to be sure everyone is out, especially children who may have fallen asleep.

n To remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, keep a stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.

Anyone wanting more information on how to prevent heat-related motor vehicle illness and death can visit the county’s Injury and Violence Prevention Program Web site at

Citizens may also call (213) 351-7888.


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