Health officials share tips on preventing hot car deaths

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) As summer approaches, so do summer temperatures. And with the heat comes the danger of young children being left in the car.

Last year, a record 52 children died across the country after being left in a hot car. Health officials at the University of Vermont Medical Center say Vermont hasn't seen a child die from being left in the car. They say it's not because it doesn't get hot, it's because Vermonters have been lucky.

They say to prevent this from happening, parents need to be aware of how it can happen.

"It started to hit me that I had killed my son. I did it. My poor sweet little boy," said Miles Harrison, a parent in Virginia.

Harrison says he has not forgiven himself for the death of his own son, Chase, in the back seat of a car.

"My husband and I vowed to never tell anyone that this had happened to us because there is so much shame," said Erin Holley, another parent from South Carolina.

Both parents are now talking in hopes of educating people around the country.

Abby Beerman, an injury prevention coordinator at UVMMC, says when this happens, it doesn't always mean bad parenting.

"You know a lot of times you can go into autopilot and not even remember the kid is in the back seat because a lot of the infant seats are rear facing. It's not like they might be talking with you," said Beerman.

Beerman says often when these deaths happen, it's generally already been a chaotic day and there was a last-minute change with the schedule of the child. It could be a parent or caregiver that normally doesn't take the child. But she has some tips so the worst doesn't happen.

"Some people leave their left shoe in the back seat, their handbag, their cellphone. They make little lanyards you can put around your neck when you get in your car that say ask me about my baby," said Beerman.

Leaving a child in the car isn't the only way these tragedies happen. Another way is when kids are playing in unlocked cars and get themselves locked in.

Beerman says it only takes 30 minutes on a 70-degree day for a car to reach dangerous temperatures.

"This isn't about bad parents, this isn't about neglect, this is about the fact it's very easy to get overwhelmed," said Beerman.

Now, lawmakers and advocates are pushing the "Hot Cars Act," a bipartisan bill that would require all new cars to be equipped with an alert system to remind drivers that something is in the back seat before they leave.