Published: Aug 02, 2011 7:38 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 02, 2011 6:39 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.- The Florida Department of Children and Families in Southwest Florida is investigating two cases of children left unattended in a hot car over the past two days. Tragically, one of those children died as a result.

Each year, our agency investigates incidents where children and vulnerable adults have been left in vehicles during sweltering summer days. Every year, there is a preventable tragedy somewhere in Florida. In addition, many children each year are rescued from hot cars, usually by local residents who notice a child alone in a car and contact law enforcement to save the child.

In Cape Coral on Sunday, a 1-year-old child was accidentally left in a car and tragically passed away after being admitted to Cape Coral Hospital. In Collier County on Monday, an 11-month-old child was rescued from a hot car by law enforcement.

Since 2002, at least four other children in Southwest Florida have died as a result of being left in a hot car. Across the country, almost 500 children have died of hyperthermia (heat stroke) after being left in a hot car since 1998. In 2010, according to KidsAndCars.org, a record number of children died this way: 49. Florida is second only to the state of Texas in the number of child deaths due to hyperthermia.

In the State of Florida, it is illegal to leave a child under the age of 6 unattended or unsupervised in a vehicle for more than 15 minutes, but we want to remind parents and caregivers that it is never OK to leave young children or vulnerable adults unattended in hot cars, not even for a few minutes.The temperature inside cars, even with the windows slightly open, can quickly reach as high as 140 degrees.

Anyone who sees a young child or vulnerable adult left unattended in a vehicle during these extreme summer temperatures should contact emergency personnel immediately. It could very well save a life.

Tips to Prevent Child Deaths in a Car:

  • If you have a young child in a car seat, check the back seat EVERY TIME you leave your car.
  • Ask your babysitter or day care to call you if your child is not dropped off on time.
  • Avoid being distracted by cell phone calls or text messages while driving.
  • Put something in the back seat of your car, like your purse or briefcase, that requires you to open the back before leaving the car.
  • Never intentionally leave a young child in a car, not even "for just a minute."
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in your driveway, so a child can't climb in and lock themselves in accidentally.
  • If a child is missing, check nearby cars immediately.
  • Use debit or credit cards to pay for gas at the pump and drive-through services instead of going inside businesses when possible.