Why You Should Never Leave a Child or Pet in the Car Alone

August 24th, 2020

When it comes to experiencing heat and humidity, there are few places that compare to Louisiana in the summertime. Everyone who lives here knows how hot it can get, and that is compounded immensely when sitting in a car without the air on, regardless of whether you park in the sun or the shade.

A quick glance at the weekly forecast and daytime highs means it’s time to bring up an important reminder every parent, and pet parent, needs to hear–children and pets left in cars are at a high risk of heat stroke and death. This preventable tragedy doesn’t only happen in summer: even when temperatures outside are at just 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a closed car can reach as high as 105 degrees in only an hour, which is hot enough to kill a child.

Between 2018 and 2019, 105 children died from being left in hot cars, and at least 82 dogs and cats perished due to overheating inside vehicles (many animal deaths go unrecorded, so the actual numbers are likely much higher). Louisiana has the second-highest rate of vehicular heatstroke deaths per capita at 31.66 for every 1 million residents age 14 and younger, falling behind only Mississippi (32.46), and above Arizona (29.32), according to statistics provided by noheatstroke.org.

Don’t Take the Risk

When your child is sleeping or your pet is rowdy and your errand is short, it can be very tempting to leave them behind for a few minutes in the car.

However, even a short amount of time can have deadly consequences.

When a vehicle heats up, two-thirds of the most rapid heating occur within the first 20 minutes. That means temperatures can increase by as much as 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, and as much as 40 degrees in an hour. Furthermore, a child’s body temperature heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s, putting them in even more danger.

In 2019, The Zebra conducted a national survey, and found that 25.4% of people in the Southern U.S. believe that cracking a window mitigates the threat of heatstroke completely. Unfortunately, the truth is that leaving the window open can make as little difference as only two degrees, which is not enough to prevent heatstroke and death.

How to Prevent Forgetting Your Child in the Car

It’s more common than you think to forget your child is in the car with you, especially if they are very young, quiet, or asleep. One good way to ensure you never forget is to place an item you can’t leave the car without, such as a purse or your shoes, in the backseat with the child to make sure you always check the backseat before getting out.

Not All Hot Cars Deaths Are the Fault of Forgetful Guardians

More than a quarter of all child hot car deaths (26.3%) between 1998 and 2018 occurred when the child climbed into the car on their own and got trapped inside.

Make sure your vehicle is always locked when not in use, and the keys are out of reach of children to prevent these and other similar types of accidents.

How to Recognize Heat Stroke

Signs of Heat Stroke In Children

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Headache
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Cold, clammy skin and increased sweating, which progresses to flushed, hot and dry skin and lack of sweating
  • Seizures

Signs of Heat Stroke In Dogs

  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Decreased energy
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of coordination
  • Bright pink gums
  • Rapid heartbeat

If you encounter the signs of heat stroke in a person or animal after being in a hot car, get medical attention immediately. While waiting for help, move the affected person or animal to a shaded area and give them small sips of cool water. 

Was Your Child Killed in the Care of Someone Else?

As painful as it is to contemplate, at least 8% of all child vehicular heatstroke deaths happen in the hands of childcare workers. If you believe you have a wrongful death claim against a babysitter, day care center, or other caretaker, contact the team at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers.

Our team is compassionate to the needs to families affected by injuries and wrongful death, and we’ll never charge you for an initial consultation.