Leaving a Child Unattended in the Car

While it may seem harmless to run into the post office for a minute and leave your sleeping kids in the car, this practice has proven to be fatal in many cases. Dozens of children die every year after being left unattended in a vehicle. There are also times when children get in the vehicle on their own and find themselves locked inside. And there are even cases where parents have forgotten they were driving with their kids sitting in the back. Circumstances vary and each state follows different regulations. In this article, we cover the hazards of leaving a child in the car unattended. We'll also examine what could happen to pets if they stay inside a car for too long.

Why is it dangerous to leave a child in the car?

The temperature inside a car rises very quickly in the first thirty minutes. Even on a cool day, an outside temperature of 70ºF rises to 104ºF inside the vehicle. That's the temperature at which heat stroke occurs according to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s. Reaching a temperature of 107ºF is fatal. The most common signs that a child is overheating are: agitation, dizziness, nausea, rapid breathing, seizures, unconsciousness, and vomiting.

How can you protect your children?

Unfortunately, forgetting that there’s a child in the back seat happens more often than people imagine. It’s something that could happen to anyone due to exhaustion or a bad night of sleep. It’s important to set up a system that helps you remember you’re driving with an infant.

Create a reminder in your cellphone or leave your purse on the floor near your child to help you see them both when you’re leaving the vehicle.

Be sure to check that all doors have been locked and that your car keys are out of reach to prevent children from entering the car on their own.

Most of all, remember it’s never ok to leave a child unattended in the car, not even for a minute. 2018 saw a record number of child hot car fatalities.

States where it’s illegal to leave children unattended in a car?

There are currently 19 states with specific laws prohibiting adults from leaving children unsupervised in a vehicle. According to KidsAndCars.org, these states include: California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington.


What about pets?

Even when people are aware of the dangers of leaving a child unattended, they often don’t realize that it’s equally dangerous for pets.

Cracking the windows isn’t a good alternative as air still doesn’t circulate properly inside the car. The temperature in the vehicle still rises dramatically even after 10 minutes. It’s always best to leave your pets at home when you need to run errands.

If you notice a child or pet is unattended in a vehicle, call 911. The 911 operator is prepared to give you further instructions. Each minute a child spends inside a hot car is critical to their well-being and the sooner they’re out of the vehicle the better.

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