Not Even for a Minute: Never Leave Your Child Alone in the Car

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Did you know that when the outside temperature is in the 60°s, the temperature inside a parked car can easily reach 110°F? Or that when the outside temperature is in the 80°s, inside the car it can reach deadly levels in as little as 10 minutes? Did you know that this can happen even if the windows are rolled down as much as two inches?

Temperatures inside a closed up, parked vehicle can easily reach in excess of 140°F, the same temperature to which we cook much of our food. Even cracking the windows doesn’t help, as hot air will build up inside faster than it can exchange with the cooler outside air. Children and pets are more susceptible to hyperthermia – excessive body heat – than adults, reaching dangerous levels 3-5 times as quickly. Hyperthermia can cause heat stroke, seizures, brain damage, and all too often death.

With the summer heat finally here, it’s important to remember that it is NEVER okay to leave a child or pet in a vehicle unattended, even for just a minute. Approximately 36 deaths, mostly of children ages three years and under, occur each year due to children overheating in an unattended vehicle – all of these deaths preventable. Many more children end up in emergency rooms due to hyperthermia from being left inside a parked car.

Also remember to teach your children that cars are not playgrounds, and car keys are not toys. Unsupervised children of any age can end up inadvertently locking themselves in the car or the trunk, and you might not know until it’s too late.

Under California law, except in limited circumstances it is illegal to leave any child six years of age or younger alone in a vehicle unless supervised by a person at least 12 years old. However, if at any time any law enforcement officer or other public official has reason to believe that a child of any age inside a vehicle unattended is in danger, they have the legal right to remove that child from potential harm (including breaking the windows if necessary to reach the child).

If you see a child alone in a hot, parked car, call the Sheriff’s Station immediately. If the child is showing signs of heat-related distress, get them out as quickly as possible and call 911.

For more information, including signs of heat-related distress, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Keeping Kids Safe page on Hyperthermia and Heatstroke.