Kids & Pets in Hot Cars – Why?

More than 40 children died of heatstroke after being left alone in hot cars in 2013.

And now for a blog topic we never thought would be necessary – Tips for NOT forgetting your child or pet in the car during searing-hot summer weather. The entire nation is watching the legal case develop against the parents of the Georgia toddler who died when left in his father’s SUV and it seems few believe the story that Justin Ross Harris forgot to drop off little Cooper at his daycare before heading to work. Whether they’re telling the truth is debatable, particularly in the Harris case, parents and guardians of children left in hot cars say they simply forgot their children in more than half of reported cases.

Thus far in 2014, 17 children have died of heatstroke suffered after being left in hot cars – and we’re only half way through the year. Last year 44 US children died this way. Here’s why, according to research collected in the 606 cases of children left alone in vehicles between 1998 and 2013:

  • 51 percent of these children (312) were “forgotten” by their caregivers;
  • 29 percent of these children (177) were playing in an unattended vehicle;
  • 18 percent (111) were intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult;
  • In one percent of the cases (6) the circumstances were unknown.

Culprits often argue that they left their children or pets in the car to run into a store for “just a minute.” Turns out these people typically prove to be terrible judges of time. Plus, few realize just how quickly the interior of a vehicle can hit triple digits, even when the car is parked in the shade, the windows are down and the temperature outside seems mild. Truth is, even on days when the weather is a cool 60 degrees, a car’s interior can top 110 degrees in minutes.

To help avoid such a situation, E3 Spark Plugs offers these tips:

  • Plan your errands in ways that won’t require you leaving your child or pet alone on a car. Use the drive-thru windows at restaurants, banks and dry cleaners, and pay at the pump for gas.
  • Place your purse, wallet, briefcase, cell phone or any other item you know you’ll need in the back seat of your car, ensuring that you’ll have to check the back seat before you leaving your car;
  • Keep a doll, stuffed animal or toy in your child’s unoccupied car seat, moving it to the front seat when your child is with you to serve as a reminder;
  • If your child goes missing, check the car first – including the trunk. Kids love to imitate their parents’ day-to-day activities, and a trunk makes a seemingly great hide-and-seek hiding spot to a child;
  • If you see a child left alone in a vehicle for more than a few minutes, get them out and call 911 – even if you have to break the window. If it’s a pet you see locked inside a hot car for more than a few minutes, call the police. Know that some, but not all states have passed legislation allowing strangers to break a car window if a pet locked inside is clearly in distress.

Remember that children’s bodies absorb heat at rates three to five times faster than adults because they’re not fully developed. And, dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their bodies like we do, so they have just two ways to cool off – by panting and by releasing heat through their paws.

From all of us here at E3 Spark Plugs, be mindful of keeping your children and pets safe in cars. And if you catch someone else failing their own kids or pets, don’t hesitate to get help. A little life may depend on it.