CHS Blog

The Danger of Leaving Children and Pets in a Car Unattended

The Danger of Leaving Children and Pets in a Car Unattended
Posted on July 26, 2017 by CHS

We all know that parents are extremely busy with work, school, sports, activities, playdates, and errands. When kids are added into the mix, it may seem nearly impossible to get everything done. Many parents have thought about how much easier it would be to leave the baby asleep in the car while they quickly run into the market to pick up, much needed, diapers or milk. In some cases, a parent may even accidently leave her child in the car because the child was sleeping so peacefully that it slipped the parent’s mind. It is crucial for parents and pet owners to understand the importance of not leaving a child or animal in the car for even a minute, as it can lead to heatstroke and even death. This is also true for pet owners who believe it is safe to leave their pet in the car with the windows cracked open while they shop at the grocery store. Not only is it dangerous for children and animal to be left unattended in a car, it is also illegal in many states. Click here to see if your state has implemented a law that protects unattended children and animals.

Jan Null, Certified Consulting Meteorologist, from the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science has been studying and tracking hyperthermia related deaths among children since 2001 to share awareness of the danger of leaving children in the car. According to Null, on average, locked vehicles can increase an average of 45 to 50 degrees in one to two hours. This means that on a sunny day of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the interior of your car can go up to 125 to 130 degrees, which is far past a temperature any adults can endure, let alone a child or an animal. A child’s body temperature increases three to five times faster than that of an adult which can cause heatstroke, brain damage, and death. Every year, there is an average of 37 child heatstroke related deaths and there have been a total of 716 deaths since 1998. These deaths could have been prevented if parents had been informed of the danger of leaving their children in the car.

When you see a child or an animal in a locked vehicle, do not walk away. Take action instead! Understandably, many citizens fear the legal repercussions for breaking a car window to rescue a child or animal in distress. Before taking action, dial 911 to ensure law enforcement is aware of the situation and medical support will be available in case the child or the animal is in critical condition. In recent years, many states have implemented Good Samaritan Laws to protect those that take action to save a child or animal left unattended in a car. Click here to see if your state has implemented these Good Samaritan Laws. In the case of California, animal rescuers are also protected by the Right to Rescue Act which “protects citizens from liability for necessary actions taken in good faith to rescue an animal from a hot car.” To make sure you are protected legally, go through each of these steps provided by the Right to Rescue Act.

  • Check and see if the doors are locked and cannot be opened with normal means.
  • See if the animal is in distress and would be in danger if not taken out of the car immediately.
  • Contact the law enforcement.
  • Use the minimum force necessary to enter the vehicle.
  • If the rescuer enters the vehicle, he or she must be on standby with the animal in the safe location, but near the vehicle until the law enforcement arrives. If the rescuer leaves the scene or the Right to Rescue Act won’t be able to protect them.

Here are some preventable tips parents and pet owners can follow to keep their children and pets safe.

  • Never leave your child or animal in the car unattended, even for a minute. It doesn’t matter if you cracked the window a little or if you kept the engine on. These two actions bring up a different type of danger. Cracking the window will only cool the car 3 degrees at most, according to Null. There is also a danger of a stranger breaking into the car. Keeping the engine on creates an opportunity for the child or animal to get to the driver’s seat and accidently move the vehicle. Make sure everyone is out of the vehicle before locking it, and especially don’t forget sleeping babies.
  • You can create a reminder for yourself by leaving something like your phone, purse, briefcase, and others under your child’s seat. This tip is especially useful for tired or stressed parents that aren’t thinking very clearly or when you are out of your normal routine.
  • Teach your child not to play in the car. When the vehicle isn’t in use, make sure all the doors and the trunk are locked so that your child can’t climb in and lock themselves inside.
  • If your child is missing, make sure to check the pool first, if you have a backyard pool, and then your car. While searching the car, also check the trunk as children can turn that into a secret hideout or play area.
  • Communicate with your child care provider by asking them to call you if your child does not arrive on a normal schedule and there wasn’t any previous arrangement made.

Over the past decade, too many children and animals have died due to these preventable accidents. Spread awareness of this danger to your family, friends, neighbors, and your community so that everyone can understand the risk of leaving a child or animal unattended in a vehicle.

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