FREMONT – All parents and pet owners know the challenges of unloading kids or pets, plus groceries, bags and other odds and ends out of a car while running errands. As the heat of the summer arrives, people are urged to make sure no living beings are ever left in a hot car. There are lots of tips and strategies to help parents and caregivers make sure they never make this dangerous mistake.
- Be extra alert if your routine changes, or if you are exceptionally tired or stressed. That’s when the risk of unintentionally leaving your child or pet in the car increases.
Put something of your child’s or pet’s, like a toy or leash, on the front seat or your lap. Even if you can’t see your child or pet in the backseat (especially if he’s in a rear-facing car seat or lays down on the floor), the object should trigger a reminder that he’s there.
Leave an item you’ll need at your next destination in the backseat, such as your cell phone, purse, employee badge or briefcase – even your left shoe, if you want to be doubly sure!
Place your child’s car seat in the middle of the backseat rather than behind the driver; buy a pet safety seat for your dog and install it in the same place. That way, it’s easier to see the child or animal in your rear view mirror.
Set up a system with your child-care provider. If you don’t plan to drop off your child that day, call your childcare person. If the child doesn’t arrive as expected, have the caregiver call you.
“Look before you lock” every single time. Get in the habit of checking the backseat every time you get out of the car. You can even buy window clings for your car from Kids & Cars.org – they’re cheap and easy to put up, and great to hand out to other caregivers who may drive your child somewhere this summer.
In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars – the deadliest year of the past two decades, according to noheatstroke.org. (Two of those deaths were in Nebraska.) So far, in 2019, nine children have already lost their lives in a hot car.
Children, vulnerable adults, and pets should never be left unattended in a car for any amount of time. Even on a mild day, the heat inside a closed vehicle can reach dangerous temperature levels within an hour. In 90-degree weather, that time frame decreases to 10 minutes.
Research shows that drivers should not rely on shade to provide cooling. A study conducted by Arizona State University estimates that, in a shaded vehicle, a 2-year-old’s core temperature could reach a dangerous, and potentially deadly, temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit in just under two hours. Young children, especially infants, lack the ability to efficiently regulate their body temperature. Their bodies heat up three to five time faster than adults, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Specific to pets, the safest option is almost always just to leave the animal at home. If they can’t go inside the destination, pet owners are urged to consider whether the pet needs to go on the car ride. Dogs, especially those with short snouts, can overheat and experience heatstroke within minutes – even when it’s only 60-70° degrees outside, and even if the windows are cracked.
If you see a child, pet or vulnerable person left in a closed car, call 9-1-1 immediately and follow the instructions given by the dispatcher. Unlike some other states, Nebraska does not have a Good Samaritan Law indemnifying individuals from criminal or civil liability when rescuing a child, person or animal from a hot car. (A 2016 bill that would have provided some of these protections stalled out in the legislature.)
For more information about preventing heat-related deaths, visit:
Renee R Wilson, NENCAP Healthy Families, contributed to this report.