On average 37 children die of heatstroke in unattended cars each year in the United States. Temperatures inside vehicles can spike to dangerous levels in minutes, and children experience the effects of overheating much more quickly than adults.
Ohio will soon join the ranks of states taking action to prevent hot car deaths. Earlier this summer, Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 215 into law. Effective August 31, good Samaritans who break into a vehicle to save a minor or animal from overheating are protected from civil liability and damages.
It’s a common misconception that hot car deaths are always the result of negligence, and many fail to take proper precautions because they don’t believe they would ever put their child at risk. According to neuroscientist David Diamond, changes in routine, lack of sleep and stress can cause a parent or caregiver to forget a child is in the vehicle with them.
“A universal observation I have made is that each parent’s brain appears to have created the false memory that he or she had brought the child to daycare,” he explains. “Parents went about their routine activities, which even included telling others that they needed to leave work on time to retrieve their child from daycare. Having this ‘false memory’ caused them to be oblivious to the fact that their child had remained in the car all day.”
Diamond claims none of the parents he studied demonstrated an act of willful recklessness or gross negligence.
3 Tips for Preventing Hot Car Deaths
Forgetting your child in the car may seem unfathomable, but it’s easier to do than most parents would like to admit.
Place an item you’ll need to retrieve before moving on with your day in the back seat. Whether it’s your cell phone or your shoe, you will be forced to check for your child before exiting the vehicle.
Request your child’s school or childcare provider contact you as soon as possible if your child is absent without notice.
Keep an old stuffed animal in the car seat, and move it to the passenger seat each time you buckle your child in to serve as a visual reminder.
How to Break into a Vehicle to Rescue a Child or Pet
Disclaimer: The following instructions are only to be used in emergency situations where the life of a child or pet is in immediate danger.
Quickly check for unlocked doors. If you’re unable to gain access to the vehicle, call 911 or recruit a bystander to do so. Under Ohio’s new law, you must take these steps to receive immunity.
Locate a tool you can use to break the car window, such as a tire iron, hammer or screwdriver.
Want to be prepared to take action? Invest in a resqme® Quick Car Escape Tool. The keychain’s powerful steel spike quickly and efficiently cracks a vehicle’s side window. Purchase one online for just $12.95, and $4 from the purchase of certain models is donated to KidsAndCars.
Select the side window furthest from the child to reduce the risk of injuries resulting from shattered glass.
Drive the tool into one of the window’s lower corners until the glass breaks. Do not focus your efforts on the center of the window, as this is the strongest section.
Use the tool to carefully clear any remaining glass shards from the edges of the window, and remove the child from the vehicle.
We hope you will never be in a situation where it is necessary to use this information, but you never know when you may be forced to take action to save a life.
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