We’ve had some hot weather this year, and summer is not even half over! Now is a good time to remind ourselves about the dangers of child in-vehicle heatstroke.

There are several ways heatstroke tragedies can occur. And, there are steps you can take to prevent all of these.

Intentionally Leaving a Child in a Car

It might be tempting to leave a child in the car if you are running a quick errand, especially if you’re avoiding potential exposure to COVID-19 in public areas. However, a car can heat up to dangerous levels in just a short amount of time, even with the windows cracked. For example, on an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle can be over 100 after just 15 minutes. If you cannot leave your child at home with another responsible person, consider curbside pickup for groceries, drive up windows for banking, or home delivery for medications.

Child Gaining Access to a Car on Their Own

With many daycares and summer camps closed due to COVID-19, more children are home with increased access to vehicles. Lock your vehicle when it’s parked and keep key fobs out of reach of children. Teach children that vehicles are not play areas. If a child is missing, check the pool first, then the car, including the trunk.

Unintentionally Leaving a Child in a Car

For many people, this one is hardest to understand. But, especially as our routines have changed during COVID-19, a loving and capable parent or caregiver can make a mistake, especially if they are tired or distracted. As daycares and schools reopen, make sure to create habits and reminders, such as putting your cell phone or even your shoe in the back seat. Ask your babysitter or childcare provider to call you if your child doesn’t arrive as expected.

Take Action if You See a Child Alone in a Car

 If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911.

Vermont law (§ 5784) protects someone from civil liability if they damage a vehicle to rescue a child (or animal). The law requires the person to take a few steps:

  • Verify that the vehicle is locked
  • Notify local law enforcement, fire department, or a 911 operator prior to forcibly entering the vehicle.
  • Leave a note on the vehicle regarding the whereabouts of the child (or animal).
  • Remain in a safe location reasonably close to the motor vehicle until a law enforcement, fire, or other emergency responder arrives.

Your fast action can save a life.

Maureen Johnson is the Child Passenger Safety Specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. See https://www.uvmhealth.org/carseats.

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