The temperature inside of a car should not be underestimated. Leaving a child or a small animal in a locked car during the summer can be fatal. Such was the case in two recent incidents in Texas where a 6-month-old girl and a 3-year-old boy both died after being stuck in hot cars.
Hot car victims
In Houston, Texas on June 16th around 1:30 pm, a 3-year-old boy climbed into his family’s parked car through its unlocked front door to retrieve a toy. Tragically, he was dead 30-45 min later. Child safety locks presumably trapped him inside the car. After his parents realized he was missing, a quick search found the child going into cardiac arrest. The family started performing CPR and called 911, but it was too late to save him.
Police are investigating the incident but believe no charges will be filed.
In Melissa, Texas 33-year-old Michael Thedford left his infant daughter in a car with temperatures climbing up to 96 degrees Fahrenheit. It is unknown how long the 6-month-old girl was left inside the vehicle, but some estimate it was up to 4-hours. Thedford now faces manslaughter charges and is being held on $20,000 bail. The child’s death is under investigation.
Dangers of leaving a child in a hot car
These are not fluke cases. KidsandCars.org reports that 16 children have died nationwide inside of a hot car this year, and summer is just starting. On average, 38 children will die of heatstroke each year due to being inside of a hot car. According to the National Safety Council’s program safety manager, Amy Artuso, more than 660 children have died in a hot car since 1998.
But it doesn’t have to be 90 degrees outside to reach dangerous temperatures, since your car works like a greenhouse. On a 75-degree day, the inside of a car can reach 90 degrees in just two minutes. After an hour, the temperature inside the car can soar to 120 degrees. Remember, people can suffer from heat stroke once the body is hotter than 104 degrees.
How to protect children from hot car deaths
Not all of the children who have died in a hot car were neglected by their parents; 29% entered an unattended vehicle on their own, according to Artuso. Therefore, parents should keep car doors locked with the keys outside of a child’s reach to prevent further accidents from occurring.
Additionally, someone should never leave a child inside of locked car, not even for “just a second.” What a person expects to be a short trip could end up being too long. When a child’s life could hang in the balance, it is always wiser to take the child with you.
If you see a child stuck inside a locked car in Florida, Tennessee, or Wisconsin during summer, you are allowed to force entry into that vehicle to save the child. You cannot be held at fault under the “Good Samaritan” hot car laws these states have. New York and California have laws on this matter pending and Ohio has a law that will become effective August 29, 2016. However, often times law enforcement officers are allowed to force their way into a car to save a child, so calling 911 is another way you can help. In other states, there have been cases where someone smashed a car window to save a pet or child and was arrested. Learn more about the legality of helping a child stuck in a hot car.
For more about the dangers of leaving a pet in car, see Heat & Summer Pet Safety.