mall-carsSomebody’s not listening! What’s up with a young child being left alone in a locked car in the summer heat?

In Merriam, Kansas last week KCTV5 News reported that a couple left a child inside a hot car while they went shopping. Anyone with a two active working brain cells knows this is wrong. Not only is this neglect, but this is child endangerment. A few more minutes left unattended and the child would have died. What is wrong with this picture?

We are talking about the Greenhouse Effect in Vehicles. When direct sunlight is combined with trapped heat inside of a parked car the fact is that the temperature rises rapidly and creates a sort of hot-house. According to KidsandCars.org 80% of the increase in temperature happens within the first 10 minutes of the vehicle’s systems being turned off. Leaving the windows down a bit does not decrease the temperature.

In the recent Kansas City incident the car windows were left shut. I suppose the guardians did not want their child kidnapped while they were having fun shopping in an air-conditioned strip mall.

It’s called heat stroke people. Children dehydrate 3-5 times faster than a full-grown adult and adding the heat from the sun beating down on the car parked in an asphalt-paved parking lot is a recipe for disaster. Last year in the United States 32 children died from heat stroke because they were left in a car; and, of these children 5 of them were knowingly left inside the car.

WebMD says heat stroke occurs when the body mass exceeds 104° and the brains temperature regulating system becomes overwhelmed because the body is unable to be cooled.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the interior temperature of a car parked in direct sunlight in 83° heat will rise to 109° in 15 minutes even with the windows rolled down 2 inches. You do the math. We have been having a heat wave in the South. Yesterday Atlanta hit 100° which means the interior heat index of cars parked in direct sunlight for more than 10 minutes was between 172° – 180°. Are you willing to sit in that heat? Then why would you leave your child in it?

Recently I was inside of a local antique consignment store when someone came inside announcing that there were 2 children left inside a car in the parking lot. “Does anyone know whose children these are; its hot outside, the car is locked and the windows are up?” she continued.

Immediately several patrons, me included, grabbed our cell phones and called 911. The owner of the store ran out to the car and several people followed…one of which was the mom. The store Owner and the mom reached the car at the same time and everyone around could hear the store Owner yell at the mom saying: “Are you kidding me? You are one of my Consigners and you treat your children like this? I am canceling your contract. Get your things and get out!”

Hooray! At least some body gets it. What? You think it’s ok that the Consigner just dashed in to restock her booth leaving her children in the car because she was only going to be gone a minute? Well you are wrong. She should have allowed the children to help her. Yes, I am well aware that it would have taken her twice as long to restock and rearrange her booth but at least her kids would have been safe.

WebMD has tips for parents keeping your children safe from heat stroke. I have a short list of my own:

  1. Do not leave them inside the car, no exceptions: no matter how brief the stop, if the car gets parked and the engine is turned off everybody goes in.
  2. Bystanders Get Involved: call 911 for help to rescue children left unattended in a hot car. Seriously, do you really want to be left with bystander-neglect on your conscience if the child dies when you could have saved him?
  3. Look inside your car before you leave: trunk included. Children have been known to play inside of cars. Don’t assume you know your vehicle is void of passengers; be responsible.

Do not read between the lines here: I’m not advocating leaving the engine running with the a/c on while you run inside either. Leaving unattended children in a car in poor behavior: that is called neglect.

Wake up out there. Are you listening? Good. Then remember the same rules apply to pets. I have called 911 more than once for a dog left inside the car on a hot day.

What? You are afraid to get involved because you could be charged? Yes there are States that have laws essentially discourage involvement because they will fine or charge people for being Good Samaritans, however, times they are a changing!

According to todays edition of Daily Mail.com the great State of Tennessee, whose Good Samaritan Law already grants latitude to people who break into cars to rescue unattended children has recently enacted a law that empowers Good Samaritans to take this to the next level. The new law is being called groundbreaking as it expands the Tennessee Good Samaritan Law to include rescuing pets from vehicles on hot days. This is good news for sure. The law essentially says that if you act reasonably you will not be at fault.

Frankly, I do not understand why the aunt and uncle were not charged and taken into custody by the local authorities in Kansas City and why child protective services was not called in. According to Fox News Atlanta they did not verbalize their concern for the child, nor did they apologize for their actions they only wanted to know who was going to pay for the damage to their car. Are you kidding me? Can you say willful endangerment?

The bottom line is if you take on the responsibility of caring for a child, treat them with the same respect and dignity you want others to treat you with…and that is not leaving them locked up in the car. If you see a child is in a car unattended, get involved and call 911.

Then there is the mum in Yiwu City, China who, according to Andy Wells, refused to break into the car to rescue her own son because of the damage her precious BMW would sustain in the process…. Unbelievable.