Child Safety: Prevent Heatstroke in Hot Cars

Temperatures can soar during summer in Alabama. It’s important to be aware of the risk that hot cars pose to children. Every year dozens of children in the United States lose their lives due to heatstroke in cars.

These tragedies are preventable. Our Birmingham personal injury lawyers share important facts about what parents and caregivers can do to protect kids.

The Danger of Heatstroke in Cars

Heatstroke occurs when the body can’t cool itself quickly enough. It is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle-related deaths in children under 15.

Children are more vulnerable to high temperatures. The NHTSA warns that a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s.

Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees, and a child can die when their body temperature reaches 107 degrees. In just 30 minutes, a car can heat up by 40 degrees and become deadly.

Fifty-three children died from car-related heatstroke in both 2018 and 2019, the highest number in the last 20 years.

How to Protect Children From Heatstroke in Cars

Remember that there is no safe amount of time to leave a child in a vehicle. Never leave a child alone in the car, even if the windows are partially open, the engine is running, or the air conditioning is on.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s safe to leave a child in a car because the weather isn’t that hot. Cars heat up very quickly, and heatstroke can occur when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s important to make sure kids can’t get into the car when you aren’t there. Many children have died after accidentally locking themselves in a vehicle. And even attentive parents may forget a child is in the backseat.

In Alabama, it is illegal to leave a child under 9 in a car that has an ambient temperature over 99 degrees Fahrenheit.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and NHTSA offer these safety tips:

  • Make a habit of checking your entire vehicle, both front and back, before locking it and walking away.
  • Put a cell phone, purse, or bag in the backseat so you’ll check the backseat when you arrive.
  • Write a note or put a toy in the passenger seat to remind you a child is in the backseat.
  • Avoid distractions while driving, especially cell phone use.
  • Be extra vigilant when there is a change in your routine.
  • Have your childcare provider call if your child is more than 10 minutes late.
  • If someone else is driving your child, always check to make sure the child has arrived safely.
  • Keep your car locked when it is parked, so a child can’t get in when no one is around.
  • Make sure children can’t get your car keys. Store them out of a child’s reach.
  • Teach children that cars are not safe places to play.
  • Keep rear fold-down seats closed to prevent a child from crawling into the trunk from inside the car.
  • Remind children that cars, especially car trunks, should not be used for games like hide-and-seek.

What to Do if You See a Child in a Hot Car

If you see a child in a locked car alone, immediately call 911. If the child is in distress, get them out right away and cool them off.

In 2019, Alabama passed a law that gives someone immunity if they break into a hot car to help a child or incapacitated person. However, this law only applies if the person meets these 3 requirements:

  • Determine the car is locked or there is no other reasonable way for the child to exit the car without help.
  • Reasonably believe that entering the car is necessary because the child is in imminent danger.
  • Contact a public safety official before entering the car, provide the information requested by the public safety official, and stay in contact with the official until the child is safe.

If the child is responsive, stay with the child until help arrives. Have someone else look for the driver or ask the facility to contact them.

Contact Hare Wynn

In addition to criminal charges, someone who leaves a child in a hot car may face a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. If a child you love was a victim, call Hare Wynn today at 800-568-5330 for a free consultation.

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