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Maricopa County launches annual hot car death awareness campaign

(Facebook/Child Safety Tech)

PHOENIX — The temperatures in metro Phoenix might be lower than normal, but the risk of hot car deaths for young children and animals is just as high.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office launched its annual Don’t Leave Me Behind campaign Monday to raise awareness among parents and guardians to not leave kids or pets in cars.

Despite Monday’s forecast calling for a high temperature of 75 degrees, Attorney Bill Montgomery said temperatures could increase inside a vehicle as much as 20 degrees in 20 minutes.

“Even in weather like this, if you’ve got the windows rolled up, the temperature might be down but the sun is shining on a vehicle,” Montgomery told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Monday.

“If you’re talking about small children, infants, they can’t regulate their body heat. And, unfortunately, that’s all it would take to have what is so preventable of a tragedy of occurring.”

The vehicular heatstroke campaign will continue through Aug. 31. The 2018 campaign went off without a hitch, with zero deaths in Maricopa County from children or pets being left in a hot vehicle.

But there has already been at least one hot car-related death in the Valley this year: A 1-year-old girl died in April after being left in a hot car for hours. Temperatures had reached the upper 80s that day.

Montgomery said tragic deaths such as that one are entirely preventable.

“It all kind of revolves around the basic excuse of, ‘I forgot. I was just going to run inside for a little bit, I didn’t expect it to take this long.’ But ultimately it usually gets back to, ‘I wasn’t thinking, I was out of my routine, I just forgot,'” he said.

The attorney’s office, Montgomery said, will charge parents or guardians with child abuse in hot car deaths if there is evidence of them disregarding responsibility or a “mental state reflecting a degree of recklessness or disregard for that child.

“We will hold people accountable.”

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