Keep kids, pets out of hot cars

Published 4:51 pm Monday, July 12, 2010

The act might seem innocent enough on the surface — you leave your child waiting in the car for just a moment while you go run a quick errand. But, way too many times, this seemingly innocent act has turned deadly.

Hot cars can easily become death traps for a child or a pet, especially in the extreme summer heat here in Alabama. But every year, tragically, someone learns this lesson the hard way. Because of this, we cannot stress enough the need for safety in summer heat.

Kelley Parris-Barnes, director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse Prevention, said it best: “There is no safe length of time to leave a child alone in a car.”

Just observe this rule: Don’t do it, even for a minute. While it might seem that you could survive in a vehicle for a short time, children and animals are more vulnerable than you think.

“Babies and small children have a very immature respiratory system, and do not have the same ability to withstand heat as adults do,” Parris-Barnes explains. “Their organs shut down faster, dehydration sets in rapidly, and it can quickly become an unintentional tragedy.”

One reason it’s so dangerous is because of how quickly the temperature rises in an enclosed vehicle. According to experts, the temperature can rise 20 degrees or more within the first five minutes. Many errands can take longer than five minutes, especially if there is a wait involved.

But you don’t have to be running an errand for your vehicle to become a death trap. Curious children have entered parked vehicles at home and have been unable to escape, resulting in a tragedy. For this reason, experts recommend locking your car at all times.

Here are a few other tips provided by the state Department of Child Abuse Prevention:

*When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately.

*Make sure all child passengers have left the vehicle after it is parked.

*Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee badge, lunch or brief case on the floor board in the back seat.

*Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind.

*Use drive-thru services when available. (Restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners)

*If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

*Use your debit or credit card to pay for gas at the pump.