(WASHINGTON) — Parents’ leaving their kids in the backseat of cars during the sweltering days of summer has become an all-too-familiar scene in the United States.
Twenty-three children have died of hyperthermia in cars in 14 states this year alone, and eight of the deaths occurred in the first week of August. Nearly 40 children die this way each year, according to Kids and Cars.
The latest death was Aug. 7 when, police say, Stephanie Gray, 38, forgot to drop off her five-month-old son, Joel, at a church day care in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Instead, Gray dropped off her 11-year-old at school and returned home, leaving Joel in the backseat of the minivan, according to ABC News affiliate KLTV.
When Gray arrived at daycare around 2:30 p.m., she was told Joel was never dropped off, according to police.
“She was informed that her son was not there,” police representative Kris Mumford told KLTV. “She ran to her minivan, found her 5-month-old child inside the van and she carried her child into the day care. It’s believed he died in the van from the heat.”
Police said that no charges have been filed.
The temperature inside a car can increase 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Children are especially at risk because they can’t handle extreme heat the way adults can.
“Kids heat up three to five times faster than adults,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.
In response to these incidents, the departments of Transportation and Health and Human Services is launching a nationwide campaign on Friday to crack down on kids being left in hot cars.
Called “Where’s baby? Look before you lock,” the program asks the departments of head start and also day care units across the country to distribute safety tips — like when you leave your car, make sure you have something important in the backseat like your keys, cellphone or purse so you can’t forget them or your child.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Puja Bhattacharjee, CNN
Joe Sterling and Cassandra Santiago, CNN
Holly Yan, Faith Karimi and Susannah Cullinane, CNN
Laura Goehler, CNN