Leaving kids in hot cars is never OK

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Wednesday marks the official beginning of summer, and with it comes temperatures that are expected to hover above 80 degrees for at least the next week. 

With temperatures on the rise, so are instances of young children and pets who are severely injured or even killed because they are left in hot cars. 

On average, 37 children die each year from heat stroke related to being trapped inside vehicles in high temperatures. That averages to one every nine days. This year, there have already been 12 deaths related to vehicular heat stroke. 

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In more than half of these cases, the person responsible for the child’s death unknowingly left them in the vehicle. This is a tragedy that could happen to anyone. We often hear the tragic stories on the news — a parent forgets to drop their little one off at daycare, a child climbs into a parked car in the driveway and can’t figure out how to escape, a new mom carries the groceries and forgets her infant asleep in the backseat. 

A change in daily routine, lack of sleep, stress, hormone changes, fatigue and simple distractions are all things parents experience and some of the reason children have been left alone in vehicles unknowingly.

Leaving children and pets in hot cars is dangerous because of what is referred to as “The Greenhouse Effect,” meaning the inside of a vehicle heats up quickly. 

According to kidsandcars.org, a public service campaign aimed at raising awareness and preventing these tragedies, the inside of a vehicle can reach 125 degrees in just minutes, with 80 percent of the temperature increase occurring in the first 10 minutes. 

Cracking the window does not help slow the heating process or decrease the maximum temperature. Kids and Cars reports that children have died from heatstroke in cars when the outside temperature was as low at 60 degrees. Adding to the dangers, a child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult’s. 

So, while it is particularly important to be aware of these dangers in the summer months, it is never safe to leave a child or a pet in a vehicle unattended. 

Kids and Cars offers some safety tips:

— Look before you lock. Create a routine where you always open the back door to check for a passenger before locking the doors to leave the vehicle. 

— Create a reminder to check the back seat by putting your purse or brief case,  your cell phone or something you will need at your final destination in the backseat. You can also place a large stuffed animal in the front seat to remind you there is a beloved passenger in the back. 

— Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways and garages. 

— Keep car keys and remotes out a child’s reach. 

— Never leave children alone in a car even for a minute. 

— If a child goes missing, immediately check inside the vehicle, including the trunk and passenger compartments. 

— If you see a child or a pet trapped in a vehicle called 911 immediately. If the child appears to be sick or unresponsive get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. 

Most importantly, share this information and these tips with others.

Through education and some extra effort, many of these tragedies could be prevented.