When the sun is shining on a car, it heats up the vehicle's interior at a higher rate than the atmosphere surrounding the car. Leaving a child, or anyone else, in a car without the air conditioner turned on should be avoided, even for a short period of time.
South Carolina raises awareness of hot car fatalities
The state's Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is hoping to increase awareness of the risk involved. From 1990 to 2020, 21 children reportedly died in hot cars in South Carolina, the 16th most in the country during that span.
There are three main reasons that children are left in cars, all of which are preventable:
- The adult runs an errand, intentionally leaving the child in the car.
- The child gains access to the vehicle and gets locked inside, without the guardians knowing.
- The adult forgets the child is in the car.
Safety tips from South Carolina and childcare experts
The DHEC and childcare experts list several strategies that adults can use to ensure they don't forget to bring their children out of the car with them.
Keeping cars locked is critical to preventing children from accessing the car alone. Teaching kids at a young age that a car is not a place to play can also help stop them from wanting to get in the car when they shouldn't be there.
When you're driving and taking your child with you, you must make sure you remember they are there, especially if they're in the back seat.
A good strategy for that is to routinely place a needed object—such as a purse or phone—in the back seat, even when you don't have your child with you. And always take your child with you when leave your car to run an errand; don't leave them in the car alone, even for a short time.
Passersby should keep a watchful eye and take action
Ideally, parents would heed experts' advice and not leave their children in a hot car, but that isn't always the case.
Because of that, passersby should be on the lookout to see if they notice kids in cars on hot days. DHEC urges folks to "be a hero" and report children in locked cars to the proper authorities.
In addition to reporting the situation, passersby should also consider taking action when it's safe to do so.
The Good Samaritan Law in South Carolina, and other states, protects individuals who
break a windowto save a child from a locked car when the car's owner is not around. This gives legal protection to someone intent on trying to save the child from potential heat stroke in the vehicle.
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