Even though the hottest weeks of summer are still looming ahead, the number of kids locked in hot cars so far this year has already outpaced the annual average, according to a Washington Post report. Discovering a child alone and in danger is definitely an emergency situation, but knowing what to do next isn’t always simple. Exactly how can you help a kid locked in a hot car? The first step is to try and stay calm.
Right now, a good portion of the country is about to see record-setting high temperatures, with most areas looking at temps well above 90 degrees, the Post reported. That means — with the engine off and every car window up — it can take as little as 10 minutes for a car’s interior temperature to reach 109 degrees Fahrenheit, San Jose State University climatologist Jan Hull wrote in material posted on his website NoHeatStroke.org. That's roughly how long it would take for an average-sized adult to begin showing dangerous signs of heatstroke, such as dizziness, flushed skin, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat, and hallucinations, Hull wrote. Because children’s bodies aren’t as heat-efficient as adults, they can reach danger points three to five times as quickly.
Despite the potential dangers, it’s not necessarily illegal to leave a child alone in a car. According to research and advocacy organization KidsAndCars.org, only 19 states have laws that make it illegal to leave a child in a car unattended. And despite many states adopting good samaritan laws to protect people who take independent action to help a child they believe is in danger — say, breaking a window for example — just how far a bystander can go (without facing charges themselves) can vary from state to state.
So, the best thing to do to help a kid in a locked car is to call 911 and get the authorities there to help right away, according to SafeKids,org. And since every minute counts, it’s better to err on the side of calling for help. “Emergency personnel want you to call,” wrote SafeKids.org founder Kate Carr in a post on the organization’s website. “They are trained to respond to these situations, and they’d much rather respond to a false alarm than a fatality.”
To keep kids safe, both organizations urge drivers to “look before you leave” your car. They also urged parents and child care providers to make a plan to check in and make sure children have arrived safely.