Don’t trap kids, pets in a sweltering car

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 28, 2017

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METRO DETROIT — Responsibility for child and pet passengers doesn’t end when a driver leaves a vehicle, as proven by the dangers of being trapped inside a car while it’s warm outside. 

The safety advocacy group KidsAndCars.org says that 12 children have died from vehicular heatstroke so far this year, and 39 such deaths happened last year. The group warns parents that anyone can potentially have a memory lapse that leads to forgetting a child in a hot car, and it’s not something that only happens to other people.

Amber Andreasen, director of KidsAndCars.org, said her group has been working to educate parents and caregivers about this issue for 20-plus years. While education is part of the solution, she believes that new technology is also critical to preventing tragedies.

She said her group advocates a legislative proposal called the HOT CARS Act of 2017. 

“The gist of it is the HOT CARS Act would require technology in all vehicles that would protect the children from being unknowingly left in a car,” she said.

In the mean time, Andreasen said parents should carefully check the vehicle’s backseat before exiting and leaving, even if it means putting an essential item in that spot — like a handbag or shoe — that will force them to take a glance.

KidsAndCars.org adds that a child can succumb to overheating faster than a grownup — three to five times more quickly.  The organization adds that leaving the windows cracked open doesn’t have a significant effect on making the car cooler, and 80 percent of the heating effect occurs in a 10-minute time frame. 

People who spot another person’s child trapped in a vehicle are urged to call 911, and they should remove an apparently sick or overheated child as soon as possible, the organization says.

Just like children are endangered by being trapped in a hot car, so too are pets at risk.

Kathy Bilitzke, director of marketing and communications for the Michigan Humane Society, said even 85-degree outdoor heat can be deadly to a passenger pet. 

“The temperature inside the car parked in the shade with the windows cracked open can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes,” she added. “And if it’s warmer, it’ll get hotter faster.”

She said dogs often overheat inside cars because they can’t pant effectively under those conditions. The best preventative measure for these situations is to simply not leave a dog in a car, she said.

Find out more about KidsAndCars.org by visiting www.KidsAndCars.org. Learn more about the Michigan Humane Society by visiting www.michiganhumane.org.

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