By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna
With hot weather comes a special kind of danger. Our cars can turn into death traps, with temperatures rising 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, according to the National Weather Service. And every summer, we read about children dying when they are trapped in hot cars—whether because the driver forgot the child was there or because the child got into an unlocked car without any adult knowing it happened. Within minutes, they can be in danger.
These deaths are tragic and heartbreaking. They’re also completely preventable.
As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a good time to revisit some basic tips to avoid the dangers of hot cars. The National Weather Service calls this the “Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat!”
Never leave a child alone in a hot car, even briefly.
If you’re driving with a child in the backseat, use a cue to prevent you from accidentally leaving them behind. Place your purse or wallet by the car seat, or place a stuffed animal or other toy prominently on the front seat so you’ll see it and be reminded that a child is in the car.
Always lock your car when you leave it unattended, so curious children can’t inadvertently become trapped inside.
If your child is missing, check any nearby swimming pools first, then check cars. Look in the backseat and the trunk.
Teach children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
Remember: “Look before you leave”—always check the back and front seats before exiting the vehicle.
Some car deaths have been the result of distracted parents driving to work and forgetting to drop children off at school or childcare. Ensure your child’s school or childcare provider has a policy in place to contact you if the child is absent.
More information on the dangers of heat can also be found at the National Weather Service Heat Safety webpage.