COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – As the weather warms up, state health leaders are reminding South Carolinians about the dangers hot cars present to children and infants.

Three hot car deaths were reported in the state last year, with March 24 being the average date of the first death of the year. Since 1998, South Carolina has seen 22 deaths in hot cars.

Heatstroke can happen throughout the year when temperatures inside a vehicle can reach life-threatening levels – even on mild or cloudy days.

Children are particularly vulnerable to hot car death as their bodies’ ability to maintain internal body temperatures are not as efficient as an adult’s and their body temperature warms at a rate of three or five times faster than adults, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“A car can heat up 19 degrees in 10 minutes, and cracking a window doesn’t help,” said Kevin Poore, Safe Kids South Carolina Director. “Heatstroke can happen anytime, anywhere. We don’t want to see this happen to any family, or any child. That’s why DHEC is asking everyone to help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”

DHEC said these hot car deaths are 100 percent preventable.

The National Safety Council said the result of hot car deaths are the result of three primary circumstances: A caregiver forgetting a child in a vehicle, a child gaining access to the vehicle and someone knowingly leaving a child in a vehicle.

According to DHEC, remembering to “ACT” will help everyone cut down on the number of deaths:

A:Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not inside so kids don’t get into it on their own.  

|• C:Create reminders. Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat. Or place and secure your phone, briefcase, or purse in the back seat when traveling with your child.

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.