Look Before You Lock: Don’t Leave Kids Alone in Hot Cars


Never leave a child alone in a car. Ever.

Vehicles can quickly become deadly, even when parked in shady areas or when a window is cracked. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the temperature inside an average car or truck can increase 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.

A child’s body can heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s, causing heatstroke, brain damage and even death. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. That’s why it’s so important to never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute.

Here are some simple ways to keep kids safe:

Set reminders. To prevent accidentally leaving a child in a safety seat, always look in the back seat every time you exit the car. If you are sometimes forgetful, try placing something beside the child that is needed at your final destination, such as a purse, briefcase, cellphone or other important belonging. You may also tape a note to the dashboard or consider setting an alarm on your smartphone as a reminder. In addition, have your spouse or childcare center call you if the child does not show up on time.

Lock your vehicle. Everyone, not just parents, should keep their vehicles locked. This will prevent a child from entering when no one else is around and accidentally locking himself or herself inside. Do not let children play in or around a vehicle. If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunks.

Take action. People who see an unattended child in a car and are concerned about the child’s health should immediately call 911. In addition, a good Samaritan law that went into effect in Tennessee July 1, 2014, gives legal protection to those who attempt to remove a child from a vehicle for the sake of saving a life. According to the law, those who have a reasonable belief a child is in danger and have contacted law enforcement/fire department for assistance can forcibly enter a locked vehicle without fear of punishment.

Know the warning signs of heatstroke. If a child is in distress because of heat, get him or her out as quickly as possible. Warning signs of heatstroke include:

  • Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
  • No sweating
  • A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • A throbbing headache
  • Strange behavior

If you notice these signs, cool the child rapidly by spraying him or her with cool water or a garden hose. But NEVER use an ice bath.

Watch these videos to learn more.

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