The dangers of leaving people and pets in hot cars


The above graph is from San Jose State University and shows the amount of children who die each year from being in a hot car. See the dip in 2020-2021 during the pandemic and when people were not driving as much? 

Newborns, children, those with disabilities, the elderly, those with a chronic illness, or pregnant women are especially vulnerable and sensitive to extreme heat. To be safe, don’t leave anyone in a hot car.

Animals can die of heatstroke within 15 minutes in a hot car. Cracking the window does not help. Plan your trips and know where you are going  during the day. If you are going somewhere that involves leaving your pet or child in the car at any time, leave them at home with a care giver.

If you ever see a pet or child left unattended in a vehicle, call 911 immediately and do not leave their side until the issue has been resolved. Signal for someone else to note the license plate number and go into nearby stores to try and locate the owner of the vehicle. Talk to dispatch and monitor the trapped victim’s status. If they get worse or even faint, then break in and save them. What are your thoughts on smashing out a window to save a pet in a car?

Some additional facts: 

  • The temperature inside a car can get 50 degrees hotter than on the outside.
  • After 10 minutes, and car will reach 94 degrees inside when the outside temp is 75.
  • Heatstroke can occur when outside temps are as low as 57 degrees.
  • A child’s body heats up 3-5 times faster than an adult, so you may be fine inside the hot car but your child may be in the back seat really struggling. Keep an eye on them even if you are there with them.
  • Lock you vehicle at home not only to prevent theft, but to keep children from playing in them and accidentally being locked in.
  • Only 21 states have laws addressing leaving a child in an unattended vehicle. But even if you are in a state that doesn’t have a specific law, you can still be charged with child endangerment or even manslaughter.

What are your thoughts about leaving a kid or pet in a car with the AC on full blast while you run into the post office?

Leaving children or pets in a hot car might not even be intentional and could just be a result of being distracted and on “auto-pilot mode”. Avoid being rushed or on your phone that can leave you more frazzled and absent minded,. Build up the habit of “Look Before You Lock“. Even if you don’t have children, get in the habit for when you may help transport a neighbor’s kid, niece/nephew, or grandchild. An additional benefit of this habit is that while doing the sweep of the vehicle, you can be aware of any objects left in plain view that might be attractive to thieves. 

Don’t assume that every family member or care giver you place in trust of your loved ones knows as much as you do about hot vehicles Educate them. Here is a 10 minute free online interactive course about leaving children in hot cars. 


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