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Despite warnings, kids still left to die in hot cars

Tuesday - 6/24/2014, 5:31am  ET

WASHINGTON -- It's as incomprehensible as it is tragic: A parent leaves his or her child in a car, the temperature goes up and the child dies. But it keeps happening.

Already this year, 13 children have died in hot cars, and NBC News correspondent Gabriel Gutierrez says an average of nearly 40 children die in hot cars every year.

Gutierrez talked with WTOP's Veronica Robinson, and he says that "it's really quite hard to understand, for a lot of parents, how this could possibly happen," but it does.

He says that many parents who have left children in hot cars say "their mind simply goes on autopilot and they get caught up in what they're doing, and they simply forget."

Recent cases have happened in Florida, South Carolina and New York.

The most recent case happened last week in Cobb County, Georgia. In that case, the father has been charged with murder and cruelty to children.

Gutierrez says there's "no rhyme of reason" as to why some parents in these situations are charged and some aren't.

Gutierrez says that safety advocates remind parents of several tips to avoid leaving children in hot cars.

  • Put a diaper bag in your front seat where you know you'll see it, as a visual reminder.

  • Put your cellphone or briefcase -- something you know you'll grab for -- in your back seat, where your child is.

  • As Gutierrez says, "looking before you lock your car ... and not getting so caught up in your day-to-day life" that you forget a child is back there.

And don't forget that it doesn't have to be very hot outside to be dangerous -- even if it's just 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can go up to 120 degrees in less than an hour.

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