With the summer heat building over most of America, the problem of children left unattended in hot cars once again takes center stage. While you would never deliberately leave your child in a hot car, an alarming number of adults inadvertently do so because they forget or fail to realize that a child is in the back seat.
From 1990 through 2017, 837 children died of heatstroke after being left alone in a sweltering car. This averages 37 deaths per year or one every nine days. The disturbing facts and figures are as follows:
- A vehicle’s inside temperature can reach 125-160 degrees Fahrenheit, even when its windows are cracked open.
- Eighty percent of the heat increase happens in the first 10 minutes.
- Your child’s body overheats 3-5 times faster than yours; (s)he can therefore die within 15 minutes.
- (S)he can die from heatstroke in a parked car when the outdoor temperature is only 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rear-facing Car Seats
You cannot see your baby or young child from the front seat when (s)he is sitting behind you in a rear-facing car seat. Even though you think it could never happen to you, you can forget that (s)he’s there if (s)he falls asleep and you become rushed or distracted. Therefore always make it a point to place an absolutely essential accessory such as your purse, billfold, cellphone, etc. in the back seat next to your child’s car seat, even when (s)he’s not in it. This will get you into the habit of ALWAYS checking the back seat before locking and leaving your parked car.
Should you observe a child in an unattended vehicle this summer, you and (s)he could easily be facing a life-and-death situation. Call 911 immediately and stay on the line with the operator until emergency help arrives. Report any signs of heatstroke you observe in the child, including these:
- Profuse sweating
- Apparent lack of coordination
While talking with the 911 operator, quickly check all of the vehicle’s doors to see if they are in fact locked. If any are not, open them immediately. Ask the operator for permission to remove the child from the car and get him or her into whatever nearby shade exists. Instruct any passers-by to enter nearby businesses and sound a child endangerment alert via the building’s public address system.
If worst comes to worst, ask the 911 operator’s advice about breaking the vehicle’s window farthest away from the child and removing him or her yourself. Many states have Good Samaritan laws regarding the rescue of children from hot vehicles. Unfortunately, New York is not one of them. Click hereto see if your state has such a law that protects you from being sued by an angry vehicle owner if you are forced to rescue his or her child.
A Word About Dogs
Dogs can die of heatstroke in a hot vehicle just as quickly as children can. Hundreds do so every year. While one cannot compare the life of an animal with that of a child, nevertheless these deaths are cruel and inexcusable. Leave your dog at home in the air conditioning during the summer except when taking him or her to necessary vet appointments. Should you observe a distressed dog in an unattended vehicle, again call 911 to report it and request emergency assistance. Some states, including California and Massachusetts, have animal Good Samaritan laws.
If your child is injured through someone else’s negligence, please call Richard A. Dubi toll-free at 833-FOR-DUBI (833-367-3824).