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Published: June, 2008; Vol 5, Num 1

 

Left Behind:

Summer Safety for Kids and Pets in Cars

You will only be gone for a few minutes. At least, that’s what you tell yourself when you pull up to the store. The kids are strapped in their safety seats. You could leave them in the car, lock the doors, run in and be out before they know it. What’s the worst that could happen?

Your Child and Your Routine

Being a parent can be hectic, and at times, a child left unattended in a car is an act of forgetfulness rather than neglect. Develop a routine that keeps you constantly aware that your child is with you. Becarsafe.org offers tips to prevent this from happening to you:

  1. "Look before you leave.” Check the backseat of your car every time you leave the car.
  2. Get items from the backseat by opening the rear doors. This will ensure that you do not forget anything or anyone.
  3. Use mirrors to see your children. Never put child safety seats behind you.
  4. Put your child’s bags in the front seat and put your personal items in the back. With diaper bags in plain sight, you are less likely to forget that you are travelling with a child.

While you might think leaving a child alone in a car for several minutes is harmless, you are putting your child at risk for heat stroke, power window strangulation or, worst of all, death.

Summer is a particularly vulnerable time for kids in cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 25 children die every year due to heat stroke caused by being left alone in a parked car. Temperatures inside of a vehicle can swell above 100 degrees in as little as ten minutes on a hot day. A cracked window cannot help because even on days when the temperature is cooler outside, your car can lock in heat that is intolerable to a child.

Pets are just as susceptible. Ten minutes in a hot car can cause your animal to go into heat stress, which is identified by increasing panting, rapid pulse, glazed eyes or vomiting. “A pet can quickly suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke when trapped in these high temperatures,” said Martha C. Armstrong of the Humane Society of the United States. “Pets aren’t able to dispel heat as well as humans.”

Heat is not the only threat. If your car is stolen, the thief has abducted your child and/or your pet as well. Also, gears can be shifted and the car can be accidently set into motion or a power window that has been left down could be accidentally closed, which could cause serious injury to whomever gets caught.

Safeguarding your loved ones from the dangers of being locked in a car starts with prevention. Never leave your child unattended in a car, no matter how short a period of time. Take your children with you when you get out of the car or leave them with a reliable child care provider. The same goes for pets. Shop at pet-friendly stores so that your furry friend can come with you. If that is not possible, leave your pets at home where they are safe. If you see a child or animal alone in a car, call 9-1-1 and stay with the car.

Kids and Cars is an organization dedicated to the vehicle safety of children. It has several public service announcements on the dangers of children left in vehicles on its YouTube page. You can also get more information including safety tips on www.kidsandcars.org.

[Jennifer E. Jones]