SYLACAUGA, Ala. –  Seven children in the U.S. have died in 2019 from heat-related causes after being trapped inside a vehicle, according to kidsandcars.org.

Last year, the number of U.S. child vehicular heatstroke deaths reached 52, the highest in a single year.

According to the safety website, in 55 percent of the cases, the person responsible for the child’s death unknowingly left the child in the car. With temperatures expected to rise into the mid-90s next week, Sylacauga Police Chief Kelley Johnson said caregivers should check and recheck to ensure children aren’t left in vehicles.

“They need to be vigilant and pay attention,” Johnson said. “Don’t get too busy and forget about their children or their pets in vehicles.”

According to kidsandcars.org, the person’s brain goes on “auto-pilot” because a habit memory has been formed for a task, and it suppresses the part of the brain that remembers a child is in the car.

“Parents lose awareness that their children are in their cars,” said Dr. David Diamond, a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida. “Tragically, these parents report that they had pictures of their child on their desks, they talked about their child, and even left work on time to pick up their child from daycare.”

Johnson asked parents to not risk leaving children in vehicles because anything can happen to cause tragedy. “I know some leave kids or their pets in cars with the engines running, but vehicles have problems all the time,” Johnson said. “They stop running. Therefore, the heat starts building in the cars, and that’s when tragedy occurs.Don’t do it! The outcome is so great. The tragedy is too much for anybody to have to face.”

In 2019, local officers will be on the lookout.

“If officers ride by and see a kid in a car, they are going to stop,” Johnson said. “They are going to determine who and where the parent or guardian or whoever has custody of the kids at the time are.”

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