AUSTIN – It happens much too often – a busy, distracted parent out of his or her regular routine leaves an unattended child in a car. The result is devastating.
As the summer heat continues to raise heat indexes across the country, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) issued a warning and reminder for the potential dangers – injury or death – that the increased heat can have on children left in vehicles.
“Because the consequences can be deadly, DPS urges parents and caregivers to always make sure children are accounted for and not left behind in a car,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said. “Members of the public can also do their part to keep kids safe by notifying emergency personnel if they witness a child alone or in distress inside a vehicle – regardless of the weather.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the chances for a child to suffer a heat stroke rise exponentially during the summer months – as it takes only 10 minutes for the temperature inside a motor vehicle to raise 20 degrees.
In fact, the NHTSA reports that even with outside temperatures at 60 degrees, the inside of a car with no ventilation can reach upwards of 110 degrees.
“Leaving windows partially rolled down does not help,” according to the DPS. “In addition, young children are particularly at risk since their bodies heat up faster than an adult.”
Safecar.gov’s tips to avoid child heatstroke
Look Before You Lock
• Always check the back seats of your vehicle before your lock it and walk away.
• Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child's car seat when it's empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
• If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely.
Be Mindful of a Child's Sensitivity to Heat
• In 10 minutes, a car's temperature can rise over 20 degrees.
• Even at an outside temperature of 60 degrees, the temperature inside your car can reach 110 degrees.
• A child dies when his/her body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
Understand the Potential Consequences
• Severe injury or death
• Being arrested and jailed
“If you see a child alone in a car, don't worry about getting involved in someone else's business—protecting children is everyone's business,” the website states, “besides, ‘Good Samaritan’ laws offer legal protection for those who offer assistance in an emergency.”
Take Action if You See a Child Alone in a Car
• Don't wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return.
• If the child is not responsive or is in distress, immediately:
o Call 911.
o Get the child out of the car.
o Spray the child with cool water (not in an ice bath).
• If the child is responsive:
o Stay with the child until help arrives.
o Have someone else search for the driver or ask the facility to page them.
Warning Signs of Heatstroke
• Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
• No sweating
• Strong, rapid pulse or slow, weak pulse
• Confusion or strange behavior
Travis M. Smith, @travis5mith