LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Every year, approximately 37 children are left in hot cars. Louisiana ranks as the 7th worst in the U.S. for children who have died in hot cars.
A month ago, a 6-month-old in Shreveport died in a hot car. It was 91 degrees outside.
Amber Rollins, director of Kids and Cars, a non-profit which aims to prevent these incidents, says that it can happen to anyone.
"What most people think is that this happens to bad parents, but nothing could be further from the truth," Rollins says. "Pediatricians, school teachers, counselors, professors at Christian colleges...people you would trust your children with."
Rollins says that most incidents are due to sleep deprivation and schedule changes. When her son was three months old, it almost happened to her.
"When my son was three months and just started back at daycare, I had a change in my normal daily routine. I was not sleeping at all. I was doing all the things that parents do. My change in routine was I had to take my 12-year-old's best friend home on the way to daycare to drop my son off. I had never done that before and the daycare drop-off was a new routine anyways, and I got to the end of her street and I should have turned left to go to the daycare, but instead I turned right to head back to my house and in that split moment, I had lost awareness that my son was in the backseat. And I didn't leave him in the backseat, but I did lose awareness. But if it can happen to someone who works on this issue every single day, it can happen to anybody."
What happens to your body when exposed to heat for an extended period of time, such as when a child is left in a car on a hot day? Dr. Michael Davis, the Medical Director for CHRISTUS St. Patrick's Hospital Emergency Room, says thankfully, no children have come into their ER for that reason.
Dr. Davis explained what being overexposed to heat does to our body.
"Initially what happens is sweating, we start breathing a little bit faster and as the temperature rises, it kinds of exhausts everything we can do to cool ourselves down," Dr. Davis says. "Eventually, we get to where we stop sweating, our cheeks get really red, we start getting dizzy, we get muscle cramps, we can throw up, and eventually we just pass out."
Dr. Davis says with children, the process is much faster.
"In a car, even with the windows cracked, the temperatures can rise dramatically. A child in that environment, they don't have the capacity to keep themselves cool. So 10 minutes, 15 minutes max, you can start to see all these changes."
When an incident happens, law enforcement has to step in. Sergeant James Anderson with the Louisiana State Police says several things could happen at this point.
"The parent or guardian could potentially be charged with child desertion or even potentially negligent homicide in the event that they left a child inside of a vehicle."
Sgt. Anderson says that those charged with child desertion could face up to 6 months in jail and an up to $500 fine. With negligent homicide, those charged could face five years in jail and an up to $5,000 fine. Law enforcement is currently running a campaign called "Look Before You Lock."
To learn more about Kids and Cars click here.
To learn more about "Look Before You Lock" click here.