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The Danger of Leaving Kids in a Hot Car and How to Prevent It

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While a tough topic to discuss, young children are left in hot cars more often than you might think, many times resulting in a heat stroke and untimely death. It’s a common scenario: a parent is running into a store for just a few minutes and leaves the windows cracked. In other instances, a parent on their way to work may forget their child is even in the back seat. It happens to many families, even the best of parents.

The unfortunate news is that within a few minutes, a child left in a car alone may be in danger. Here’s what you need to know and how to prevent this from happening to you.

The Dangers of Leaving a Kid in the Car   

Whether it happens when a parent forgets a child is in the car, a parent leaves them for a quick errand, or a child manages to climb into a car on his or her own, there are immediate dangers to be aware of.

Heat stroke is one of the most pressing dangers. If heat stroke occurs, it can damage the brain and other organs. A demonstration held by Los Angeles police officers showed in about 12 minutes, a thermometer placed in the back seat of a car with the windows cracked jumped 32 degrees, to about 102 degrees. A vehicle without the windows cracked jumped to 120 degrees in the same time period. This was before noon, when the sun is at its strongest. Your car can get up to 110 degrees even when it is in the 60s outside.

Because children’s bodies have not yet developed the ability to cool down well, it can heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s body. Most of the children who have died from heat stroke after being left alone in a car were 3 and under, but it can even happen to kids as old as 14.

Signs a Child Is Suffering From a Heat Stroke

If a child is over heating, they will show one, a few, or all of the following symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting

How to Avoid Leaving a Kid in the Car

In order to prevent this from ever happening to you and your family, a few simple precautions can be taken:

  • Always take your child with you when running into a store or elsewhere, even just for a few minutes.
  • Never let your kids play in an unattended vehicle.
  • Find a method to remind you when a child is in your back seat. Common precautionary systems include:
    • Placing an important item, like a cell phone, purse, or briefcase near your child.
    • Set a reminder to be sure you dropped your child off at school or daycare, or to check your back seat.
    • Keep a large stuffed animal in the car seat when your child is not with you. Move it to the front seat where you will see it when your child is with you.

What Should I Do If I See a Child Locked in a Car Alone?

In a case where you see someone else’s child in a car alone, call 911. If they are displaying any of the above signs of heat stroke, attempt to get them out of the car as quickly and safely as possible.

Leaving Pets Alone in a Car Is Dangerous, Too

It is more common to think leaving a pet locked in a car is okay, but it can be just as deadly. According to the Humane Society, high temperatures can cause irreparable organ damage and even death. Rolling down the windows has been shown to have little effect on the temperature inside a car, too. These situations can be easily prevented, but if you come across a pet locked in a car without the A/C on, here are some ways you can help:

  • Take down the car’s make, model and license plate number. If you are in a store parking lot, try to notify their staff and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner.
  • If the owner can’t be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive.
  • In some states, good Samaritans can legally remove animals from cars under certain circumstances, so be sure to know the laws in your area and follow any steps required.

Finkelstein & Partners, LLP is a personal injury law firm founded in Newburgh, NY over 60 years ago. The firm is dedicated to helping the victims of catastrophic injures and their families by holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions. The culture of caring and commitment to the community is evidenced by the firm’s many community programs including paid volunteer time and an anti-distracted driving program for young drivers. Learn more at


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