With the hottest days of summer upon us, it is imperative for all drivers to understand the danger that is created when scorching summer sun meets unattended automobile. Hopefully, you’ll take the time to not only read the following article in order to better understand the problem, but also take the time to pass on the knowledge to friends and family members, especially those who may have vulnerable loved ones.
It would have been hard to miss at least one recent instance where tragedy has struck due to a child, elder, or family pet being left unattended in a hot vehicle this year. With all of the recent media coverage of this very topic, it seems like everyone should be aware of the issue, and yet mistakes are still being made every day right here in the United States. Over the last 10 years, more than 700 children have died of heat stroke from being left unattended in a vehicle, or from entering a vehicle on their own and becoming trapped. Sadly, this number does not include the elderly fatalities, or the largely unknown number of pet deaths from this same cause.
On a day when the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside (a common summer temperature in many parts of the U.S.) the temperature inside the car can more than double to over 180 degrees in the course of just one hour. With more than 1 degree of heat added every single minute, this means that there is NO safe amount of time to leave a loved one unattended in a vehicle. Studies have proven that leaving a window cracked a bit, or parking in the shade, offers almost no benefit whatsoever.
Heat stroke can occur when the body temperature reaches a mere 104 degrees, and at 107 degrees, the temperature is usually fatal. This is especially dangerous for children and small animals, as their body temperature rises much more quickly than an adult’s temperature does – for a small child that can be three to five times faster. Additionally, the child’s body is even less capable of cooling itself when strapped tightly into a safety seat, further limiting air flow.
Signs of heat stroke include agitation, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, rapid or difficult breathing, seizure, unconsciousness, and vomiting. For pets, symptoms may be bright red gums, excessive salivation, dilated pupils, panting or difficult breathing, increased heart rate, convulsions, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The first thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to be alert and conscious of your actions at all times. Keep your vehicle locked, and be sure the keys are not accessible to children when it’s not in use. Never encourage children using a vehicle to play in. Any time a child is with you, make a habit of putting an essential item in the back seat with them, so you’ll need to retrieve it upon arrival at your destination. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you if you need to drop off a child at daycare. Make arrangements for daycare providers to contact you right away if your child does not arrive as expected. Check in with a spouse who’s day it is to take the kids, or a friend who you know has a child they are responsible for.
If you see a child left alone in a hot car, check to see if the parents are near by. If not, call 911 immediately. In most states, it is illiegal to break into a vehicle even under these circumstances, and trained professionals will be able to get the job done much more safely. Stay nearby, and on the line with emergency operators, until help arrives. For a pet in danger, you can also call your local police or animal control.
Lastly, NEVER leave a vulnerable loved one unattended in a vehicle for ANY amount of time, for ANY reason. Children, pets, disabled individuals, and some elders are unable to communicate clearly that something is wrong or extricate themselves from the situation. Your loved ones are relying on you to keep them safe.