By Christina VanGinkel
Every spring, with the heat of summer approaching, and days where temperatures are occasionally in the sixties, seventies, and even warmer, it is time to remember that children and vehicles do not go together. With a small child strapped securely into a seatbelt or child restraint, parents or caregivers may assume that it is ok to just pop into a store or some other errand just for a minute or two, and leave a child in the vehicle. After all, many of them will tell you, they are sleeping, or occupied, or restrained, so what can be hurt. A lot can be hurt, a child can become overheated, even die. Yet each year sadly, numerous parents and caregivers will make that decision and not think twice about it. Not that is, until it is the child in their own care that is injured, do they realize just how quick the damage can be done, and just how irreversible that damage is.
Some adults may mistakenly believe that if the inside of their car is a lighter color, or their exterior paint job is too, it will not become as hot as a car with a dark interior or exterior. They would be right to a degree, but not so much that it would make a difference in the life of the child left in that car. A car's interior will reach unbearable temperatures after just a short time, no matter what color the interior or exterior of a car is. Depending on an air conditioner is also not sufficient. Cars stop running for all different reasons, not to mention the danger factor separate from the heat, of leaving a child or children alone in a running vehicle. Leaving the window cracked an inch or two is also not sufficient. There are never enough reasons under which a child should be left unattended in a vehicle, ever. Add to that the heat of warm day, and the danger added is admittedly higher.
If you happen to see a child or several children in a vehicle, alone, without an adult right there, contact authorities immediately. Also, take note of the license plate number and make and model of the vehicle so that if an adult does come back and they leave, you can provide this information to the authorities if they did not already take this down when you first called to report it. Even if they come back, authorities will want to contact them to make sure that all of the children are ok, and that this scenario does not play out again. If a life is at immediate risk, notify another adult nearby to notify the authorities, and take whatever measures are needed.
Every parent is rushed for various reasons, but I honestly cannot think of a single time that it is ok for an adult to leave children alone, in a vehicle, for any length of time. You might think you are running into the grocery store for just a minute, but the lines could be longer than you imagined, or you might run into someone that you have not seen in a while, and before you know it, those two minutes are ten. In addition, in ten minutes, you can have a potentially life threatening occurrence.
What do you do if you accidentally lock a child in car during the heat of summer? Call for help immediately, and then take any measures necessary to gain entry into the vehicle without risking injury to the child. Also, be sure that you never leave an unlocked vehicle where a child who is not being properly supervised could climb in and become accidentally locked inside. Trunks and interiors can be hazardous to a child. When getting out of a vehicle, even after a quick trip to a store, always do a head count? Surprisingly, each year we hear horror stories of a harried parent who in haste forgot a child in a vehicle. Maybe the child was sleeping, and the parent was not normally the one to pick them up or drop them off at daycare or wherever, and in their rush, forgot they even had the child with them.
Cars can be hazardous to children, add in the heat of summer and their danger multiplies. Take care this summer with your kids and the potential risk that they combined with the family car can result in.