Fort Worth, Texas,

ACT: What You Should Do If You See a Child In a Hot Car

If you saw a baby in a car, what would you do to help?

On July 3, police in Boynton Beach, Fla. made national news after they rescued a dog trapped inside a car that was described as “easily 110 degrees.” The officers broke out the car window and let the dog out. The owner of the dog was issued a ticket for leaving the animal unattended.

On Sunday, July 2, a 7-week old infant died in Mary Esther, Fla. after being left in a hot van for about 8 hours. It was the 18th death nationwide and third in Florida. Seven of the deaths occurred in Texas.

If you saw a baby in the car, what would you do to help?

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a national online survey found that almost 2 out of every 5 parents said they had seen a young child left alone in a parked car in the last year. Some reported that they took action. Others reported they did nothing.

So, what should you do if you see a child in a hot car?

First and foremost, call 911.

“Each situation is unique. It’s best to call 911, describe the situation and take direction from them,” said Lonny Haschel, Staff Lieutenant with Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Highway Patrol.

In a situation where someone spots a child in a hot car, every second counts. The inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes and keeps getting hotter with each passing minute. And cracking the window doesn’t help.

Heatstroke occurs when the body is no longer able to cool itself quickly enough. Young children are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up to 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. Children can’t cool their bodies fast enough to handle the heat and once the child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, he or she is at risk of death.

“What’s heartbreaking is that this is a serious public health issue that is totally preventable,” said Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. “Every mom and dad out there must realize it can happen to you. Texas leads the nation in child heat-related car deaths.”

A person commits a criminal offense in Texas if he or she knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than 5 minutes knowing that the child is :

  1. Younger than 7 years of age and;
  2. Not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.

Safe Kids recommend the “ACT” method to prevent tragedy to your child or to a child you see left in a car:

  • A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
  • C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
  • T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
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photo:Jeff Calaway
Jeff Calaway
Senior Content Specialist
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