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Originally published: 2013-07-22 10:47:12
Last modified: 2013-07-22 10:52:19

Our View: 21 child deaths should not have happened

The dangers of leaving an animal unattended in an enclosed car during the summer heat are well documented. But there's one danger that's far worse.

In this year alone, 21 children across the United States -- including one in North Carolina -- have died of heatstroke from being left in a car.

Hyperthermia sets in quickly in a vehicle during the summer months, and this is so, even in the High Country and even during mild 70-degree temperatures. That's because an enclosed space, such as a car, can act as an incubator, with temperatures easily rising 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and 30 degrees in 20 minutes. At that rate, it doesn't take long for your vehicle to turn mild temperatures dangerously high.

Because even cracking a window has little effect on the internal temperature, there is nothing to be done except to not leave a child in your vehicle. It's also important to ensure your vehicle is locked when unattended, so children don't stray into it on their own during play.

And while no one could envision leaving a vehicle and forgetting about a child in the back seat, this happens. A reminder by putting something into the back of your car that you will need at your destination -- a purse, a wallet, your cell phone -- can keep even the most distracted caregiver from leaving a vehicle without the passenger sitting in the car seat.

But perhaps most importantly -- because leaving children unattended does happen -- is that we all cast a watchful eye for others while we assume our daily errands.

A phone call to 911 if you see a child unattended in a vehicle could save that child's life.