Yesterday, news stations reported a Lancaster woman who was arrested when she left her two-year-old son in a locked car. The 27-year-old woman said she did it because she wasn’t able to handle both of her children at the same time. Claiming she didn’t understand what she did wrong, she told the police that she had left her window cracked and provided the child with food. The woman is being charged with Endangerment of a Child. It was 105 degrees outside when the toddler was locked in the car. As both a mother and a pet owner, I’m amazed and shocked when I hear these types of stories. Common sense would dictate that when it’s really hot outside, it’s going to be even hotter in a locked car.
Not only is leaving a child or animal inside a hot, locked car a bad idea, it’s a deadly idea. With an 80-degree temperature outside, a vehicle’s temperature inside can jump 19 degrees in just ten minutes. After that, the temperature continues to rise, much like the heat in an oven. You may not realize that a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s, causing even greater risk for heat stroke which can cause permanent brain damage or even death.
A nationwide count of hyperthermia deaths of children left in vehicles through the month of June totals 20. Almost daily, there are reports from media around the country of kids being locked inside cars. Approximately 37 children nationwide die from heat stroke every year after being left alone in hot cars. In about half these cases, an adult simply forgot to take the child out of the car when he or she left the vehicle.
The Humane Society of the United States also warns against locking pets in a car. Pets can’t perspire and only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet. Dogs and cats that are only briefly left inside hot cars can also suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage and even death.
Additionally, normal household items can act as projectiles in an extremely hot car. There have been reports of aerosol cans exploding in hot cars and literally blowing out windows. Because cans are pressurized, the hotter they get, the more the pressure builds, resulting in an explosion.
The following are some tips on preventing heat-related injuries for both children and pets in cars:
- Never leave a child alone in a car — not even for a minute, not even if the windows are down.
- Set a reminder on your cell phone, BlackBerry or computer to be sure that you drop your child at daycare.
- Place your cell phone, purse or briefcase on the floor of the back seat. This will help remind you to open the back door and see that your child or pet is in the car.
- Ask your childcare provider to call if your child does not arrive when expected.
- Lock car doors and always keep keys out of reach of young children. Teach children not to play in or around cars.