Community: Local Organizations Work Together To Improve Public Awareness Of The Dangers Of Unattended Children Being Left In Vehicles

Safe Kids West Michigan, Fruitport Lions Club, Fraternal Order of Police #99, the GM Foundation, and local law enforcement agencies are working together to increase public awareness of the dangers of leaving infants and young children unattended in vehicles.

Certainly, one of the most prevalent risks to a child left in a vehicle is heatstroke. Information from Safe Kids indicates, “Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. On average, every 10 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle.”

“Many people are shocked to learn how hot the inside of a car can actually get,” said Keith Johnson, president of the Fruitport Lions. “On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and keep getting hotter with each passing minute. And cracking the window doesn’t help.”

So far this year, at least 12 children have died from heatstroke, while unattended in vehicles in states across the country, according to Safe Kids.

“We don’t want to see this happen to any family,” said Detective Lieutenant Bruce Morningstar, Fruitport Police Department. “That’s why we’re asking everyone to help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”

“Heatstroke sets in when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough,” said Holly Alway, Safe Kids West Michigan coordinator. “A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than adult’s, making them more susceptible to heatstroke. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down, and when that temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.”

Safe Kids offers the following information and child safety tips regarding child heatstroke prevention:

To reduce the number of deaths and near misses, Alway suggests remembering to ACT:
• A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.

• C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.

• T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

To highlight the dangers of leaving a child in a car in a parking lot, funds were raised to purchase a vehicle temperature display unit. The unit demonstrates the difference between outside temperature and temperature inside a vehicle. The unit is depicted in the attached images. The unit has been displayed at various businesses since the first day of summer. Police departments throughout the area are working together with Safe Kids to spread the word. The temperature display unit is scheduled to be displayed at several locations in West Michigan throughout the summer.

In addition to heatstroke, there are certainly other risks of leaving a child unattended – such as abduction, the child ingesting and choking on food or a foreign object, or a child being injured by getting stuck in a power window.

We appreciate the generous contributions of Safe Kids West Michigan, Fruitport Lions Club, the GM Foundation, and Fraternal Order of Police #99 for their support of this public awareness program. It is our hope, through this collaborative effort, we can prevent one of these tragedies from happening in the West Michigan area.

Michigan law regarding leaving an unattended child in a vehicle is found at MCL 750.135a.

750.135a Leaving child unattended in vehicle; prohibition; violation; definitions.
Sec. 135a.
(1) A person who is responsible for the care or welfare of a child shall not leave that child unattended in a vehicle for a period of time that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child or under circumstances that pose an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child.
(2) A person who violates this section is guilty of a crime as follows:
(a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivisions (b) to (d), the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
(b) If the violation results in physical harm other than serious physical harm to the child, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.
(c) If the violation results in serious physical harm to the child, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.
(d) If the violation results in the death of the child, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.
(3) As used in this section:
(a) “Child” means an individual less than 6 years of age.
(b) “Physical harm” and “serious physical harm” mean those terms as defined in section 136b.
(c) “Unattended” means alone or without the supervision of an individual 13 years of age or older who is not legally incapacitated.
(d) “Vehicle” means that term as defined in section 79 of the Michigan vehicle code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.79.

History: Add. 2008, Act 519, Eff. Apr. 1, 2009

For more information on preventing child heatstroke deaths, contact 231.672.4910 or please visit
About Safe Kids West Michigan
Safe Kids West Michigan works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Safe Kids West Michigan is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids West Michigan was founded in 2001 and is led by Mercy Health. For more information, visit or

Mercy Health
Mercy Health is a multi-campus health care system dedicated to providing highly personalized care, excellent access to primary care providers and specialists and a more informed patient experience. Mercy Health serves West Michigan and the lakeshore with five hospital campuses, 58 physician offices, more than 1,300 medical staff physicians, more than 800 hospital beds and 7,200 associates, and hospice, home health and long term care service offerings. Mercy Health Physician Partners, our multi-specialty physician network, employs a total of 491 Physicians and Advanced Practice Professionals in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and the lakeshore. The system includes leading teaching hospitals, and renowned clinical leadership in oncology, cardiology, orthopedics, and neurology. Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is a Magnet®-recognized hospital. Mercy Health was named in West Michigan’s 2013 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For™ by The Michigan Business & Professional Association (MBPA).

Mercy Health is a regional health ministry of Livonia, Mich.-based CHE Trinity Health, one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 21 states from coast to coast with 82 hospitals, 89 continuing care facilities and home health and hospice programs that provide nearly 2.8 million visits annually. Visit us at and and find us on Facebook at .

About the General Motors Foundation and Safe Kids Buckle Up
Beginning in 1997, General Motors and the GM Foundation have served as Safe Kids Worldwide’s exclusive funding source for its Buckle Up program, a multifaceted national initiative, bringing motor vehicle safety messages to children and families through community and dealer partnerships. To date, more than 22.5 million people have been exposed to Safe Kids Worldwide events and community outreach efforts. Certified child passenger safety technicians working through Safe Kids coalitions have examined over 1.65 million child safety seats at over 85,000 events, and the program has donated over 600,000 seats to families in need.