Don’t Endanger Your Children by Leaving Them in a Hot Car

by Terry Bryant

As summer temperatures arrive, so does the chance that leaving a child (or your devoted dog) in a car, even for a few minutes, can have fatal consequences.

An average of 37 kids die in hot cars every year in the U.S., according to certified consulting meteorologist at San Jose State University, Jan Null. The overwhelming majority of these accidental deaths occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when more than one small child dies each week. Null has been tracking U.S. child vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998. And though no figures exist on the number of pets who die from heatstroke after being locked inside a hot vehicle, it’s certain that number is extremely high. In Houston, vehicle interior temperatures during the summer can be as high as 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Virtually all child deaths in hot vehicles are completely unintentional, with the child either being inadvertently left in the car or having gotten into the car on their own. Some of the scenarios which can lead to such tragedies include:

  • Parents simply “space out” and forget that their Infant or toddler is in the car seat behind the driver.
  • They are left in a locked car while the driver exits the vehicle just to “run a quick errand.”
  • Toddlers or preschoolers sneak into the car to play and end up locking themselves in.
  • Playing children get trapped in the trunk.

In those brutal in-car temperatures – which can reach the 120-140 level in as little as 10 minutes – kids run a huge risk for heat-related injuries of high fever, dehydration, seizures, stroke, and death.

Keep Kids Cool and Safe in our Houston Summers

To protect your children:

  • Look Before You Lock: Check the back seat every time you get out of the car before you lock it, even if your child isn’t with you. Make it a habit.
  • When you get home, get your kids out of the car first; then unload anything else.
  • NEVER leave your child in a car, even for a minute, especially on hot, sunny days.
  • Always lock your car and keep your keys secure so your kids can’t find them at home.
  • Warn your kids about playing in the car by themselves without adult supervision.
  • If you don’t already have one, install a trunk release mechanism so kids won’t get trapped in the trunk.
  • Make sure that childcare providers and daycare workers have a plan to ensure that your kids aren’t left in the daycare’s car or van. And ask them to share that plan with you.
  • There are now mobile apps and sensor devices to help remind you when you’ve left your child in your car, but use them only as back-ups to your good child-rearing habits.

Also, be on watch when you’re in parking lots for cars that might have an unattended child left inside. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911 and stay by the car until law enforcement arrives so you can monitor the child’s condition.

The bottom line is this: Don’t leave your young children alone in the car at any time.  With our sub-tropical climate, any time outside temperatures rise above 75 degrees, they can create interior heat levels which can threaten the health of a child who is locked in the car with the windows up. It’s just not safe.

Besides that, in Texas it’s illegal for anyone to knowingly or intentionally leave an unattended child in a motor vehicle for more than five minutes. If a child dies because of it, involuntary manslaughter charges (or worse) could be filed against the person who left the child in the vehicle.