Hot Cars: Look Before You Lock

As summer temperatures peak, it takes just minutes for a car to become deadly to children inside. While it seems unfathomable to forget a child in a car, 636 children died from heatstroke in vehicles from 1998 to 2014; more than 50% of those deaths were the result of caregivers forgetting their small passengers.

These tragedies can happen anytime, anywhere and to anyone, but there are steps to help prevent them, including “Look Before You Lock” - Open the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to ensure no child is left behind. This will soon become a habit. Create reminders by putting a necessary item (e.g. briefcase, purse, phone) on the backseat. Or keep a stuffed animal in the child’s seat - when the child is placed in the car, the stuffed animal moves to the front seat as a reminder of the child in the back.

Tell day care/babysitters you’ll always call if your child won’t arrive as scheduled, and ask them to call if your child doesn’t arrive as expected. Many children’s lives could have been saved with a call from a concerned child care provider. Avoid heatstroke injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Use drive-thru services when available and use your debit/credit card to pay for gas at the pump.

In 10 minutes, the temperature in a car can rise by 20º. Heatstroke can happen when it’s as low as 57º outside and, when in the 60s, a car can reach well over 110º. Shaded areas don’t provide protection and cracking a window does little to keep a car cool. To prevent children accessing vehicles on their own, keep cars locked at all times, even in the garage/driveway, and always set your parking brake. Never leave keys/remote openers within reach of children. If a child is missing, check vehicles and trunks immediately.

If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations and want you to call. You could save a life. 

William S. Neblett
Attorney William Neblett practices personal injury, maritme, medical malpractice and nursing home abuse law.