With the warm summer months already upon us it is important to remember safety when it comes to children and their exposure to hot vehicles.
In 2018, there were over 50 child fatalities as a result of being left in a hot vehicle. Of those children, 53 percent were accidentally left in the car by a parent or caretaker; 26 percent gained access to a parked car while not being supervised; while the remaining percentage of children were deemed intentional deaths. The cause of death for each of those children was vehicular heat stroke.
Vehicular heat stroke can happen when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees Fahrenheit. In just 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can rise more than 20 degrees. Cracking the window does not help with keeping a parked car cool nor does it decrease the maximum temperature inside the car. It is important to know that a child’s body overheats three to five times faster than an adult body, so what may feel normal for a caretaker could be harmful for a child.
One of the easiest ways to prevent accidents from occurring is to get in the habit of always checking the back seat of your car, even if your children are not with you. Early mornings are often tiresome and rushed, doing little things for reminders can help save a life.
One such suggestion is to take one of your child’s shoes off and put it in the front seat with you as a reminder that they are in the back seat. Always keep parked cars locked to prevent children from climbing into them while playing.
Leaving a child in a hot car could be a punishable offense. Charges could range from child neglect to child abuse, depending on the circumstances. According to the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code 75 Pa.C.S.A § 3701.1. “A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.”
Don’t forget about your pets, too. It is estimated that hundreds of pets die each year across the country after being left in hot cars. If you see an unattended child or animal in a car, you should immediately call 9-1-1. Just remember, always look before you lock.