Summer, officially, is still a week away. And while it may be rainy and cool for June today, we’ve already experienced several days of rather warm weather; the kind in which you break out in a sweat after minimal exertion and suddenly remember it’s time to buy sunscreen.
It’s also the time to really start thinking about a phenomenon that occurs every year — year-round in some regions, but during the warmest months especially in these parts: drivers leaving kids (or pets) in hot cars.
It’s hard to believe this is still happening, between the high-tech vehicles we now drive and how often such incidents make the news. But just days ago, an Ohio man was arrested after leaving his 14-month-old son in a parked car with the windows rolled up. A passerby noticed the unconscious boy and police rescued him; dad at first denied the car was his, then said he didn’t know the child was inside, and finally admitted he’d simply forgotten the boy was there.
Actually, if anything, the issue is getting worse. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that since 1998, an average of 38 children died from heat stroke per year after being left in parked cars. In 2018, the number was 52.
A car sitting in direct sunlight between 80 to 100 degrees can reach 172 degrees inside. Even cars with cracked windows can hit sizzling temperatures within 15 minutes, the NHTSA warns. Very elevated body temperatures damage the brain and other key organs, and lead to death. Children’s smaller bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults’, so it takes less time for them to feel the effects.
Earlier this month, we ran an account of a Cleveland man, 75, who became trapped in his own car when his key fob didn’t work. He was rescued after 14 hours when a neighbor checked on him and alerted the fire department. One reader noted most cars can be opened from the inside even without a key fob — indeed, General Motors noted the man’s Cadillac had a release lever on the floor near the door, but he said he didn’t know about it. But even in cars where the door latch simply has to be pulled to open it, that won’t help a pet, or a child restrained in a car seat.
We’d hope car makers will work on even better ways to prevent children and animals from suffering in hot, unattended vehicles. But really the fault lies with parents, caretakers and pet owners. So be aware as the summer heats up.
Here are a few tips that might help prevent a tragedy:
Prevent yourself from forgetting a sleeping child in your backseat by putting items you’ll need beside him or her. Stow your briefcase or purse, for example, close to the child’s seat.
Consider setting day care reminders on your cellphone or other electronic devices, and asking the center to call you, promptly, if your child doesn’t show up.
If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.
And remember, the same goes for pets.