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Kids and pets left in hot cars can have tragic ending

Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle on a hot summer day can lead to heatstroke and can kill in minutes. The Department of Earth & Climate Sciences at San Francisco State University reported that there have already been 21 child deaths this year due to heatstroke from being left in a hot vehicle.

Tragedy can strike when parents or caregivers forget or knowingly leave children or pets in hot vehicles. It can also occur when unattended children play in parked vehicles. A car can heat 20 degrees in just ten minutes. Even with temps in the 60s, the interior of a car can eventually heat up above 110 degrees. A child will die of heatstroke when their body temperature reaches 107 degrees, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The issue of child heatstroke deaths reached national attention in June when a father in Atlanta said he forgot his son in the car seat while he was at work all day. The 22-month old boy died after many hours trapped in the vehicle. The father faces charges of murder and child cruelty.

Many more cases have been reported this summer. The Washington Post reported that a father in Sarasota, Florida said he left is 2-year-old daughter inside his vehicle while he ran inside his home to grab a phone charger. He fell asleep inside the house, leaving the toddler in a hot car for five hours. The child died and the father faces manslaughter charges. Earlier this month in Utah, an 11-month-old-girl, died after being accidentally left in a car by her mother.

What Are the Symptoms?

Hot, parked cars are also deathtraps for dogs that are left alone. Last month a woman left her dog in a Walmart parking lot in Florida as she spent most of the day shopping in the store. Another customer found the dog dead of heat exhaustion as a result of the high temperatures in the vehicle. Earlier this summer in Phoenix, a dog died after having been left in a closed vehicle in a mall parking lot. Because dogs have built-in fur coats and can coal themselves only by panting, they can succumb to heatstroke in just 15 minutes and can suffer brain damage or die as a result, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Child and pet heatstroke deaths are becoming a common occurrence that is totally preventable. Safety tips provided by the NHTSA to prevent vehicle-related heatstroke deaths include the following:

  • Never leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are partially open or the engine running and the air conditioning is on.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle, front and back, before locking the door and walking away.
  • Ask the childcare provider to call if the child doesn’t show up as expected.
  • Do things to serve as reminders that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing your cellphone, purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure a child is not accidentally left in the back of a vehicle.
  • Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach.
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, you should call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. If the child is in distress, do whatever is necessary to get him or her out.

PETA recommends that if you notice a dog locked in a car on a hot day, check with businesses nearby for the owner. If no owner appears, call the police or local shelter. If the dog appears to be in distress, find help immediately.

The personal injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys handle all types of personal injury cases, including truck, auto or bus accidents; medical malpractice, work injury; product or premises liability and car recall cases. We serve client in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. For more information, visit

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