GREENSBURG — Already this year, 17 children have died across the United States after being left in hot vehicles, according to KidsAndCars.org.

As previously reported by the Daily News, the organization is known for being a national leader and organization focused entirely on the prevention of injury and death to children in and around motor vehicles. KidsAndCars.org said last year’s 51 fatalities was the highest number the organization has ever documented in more than 20 years of collecting data.

According to numbers provided by the organization, on average, 38 children die in hot vehicles every year. Their numbers showed a 34 percent increase in 2018 fatalities.

As the temperatures continue to rise, now is as good of a time as ever to remind everyone the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles.

Brendan Bridges, chief of the Greensburg Police Department, said while they receive a handful of calls each year in regards to a child left unattended in a vehicle on a warm day, that’s still a handful too many.

“A lot of times, the person has already arrived back to the vehicle and left before we get there [and address the situation],” Bridges said.

It should go without saying – never leave your child unattended for any reason.

Temperatures inside vehicles climb at an extraordinary rate. Even with windows cracked, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. Also, 80 percent of the increase in temperature occurs within the first 10 minutes.

Essentially, cracking windows does not slow the heating process or decrease maximum temperature, according to a Kids and Cars organization report. Additionally, temperatures do not necessarily have to be high. There have been reports of children dying from a heatstroke in temperatures as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Kids and Cars, contributing factors to the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle include the fact that a child can overheat three to five times faster than an adult.

“I don’t think people realize how quickly a vehicle heats up,” Bridges said. “They definitely need to call us right away if they see a child left in a vehicle.”

Bridges mentioned 911 can be called since this is an emergency.

After making a call to the authorities, if someone senses extreme danger, one Indiana law offers immunity to individuals who rescue children.

One Indiana law (Title 34, Article 30, Chapter 29) may give immunity for damage caused when rescuing a child from a vehicle. The law “grants civil immunity to a person who forcibly enters a locked motor vehicle for the purpose of rescuing a child,” but “does not extend civil immunity to acts involving gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct.” For more information on that law, visit iga.in.gov.

Contact: Joshua Heath, 812-663-3111 x7401; joshua.heath@greensburgdailynews.com