As the hottest months of the summer approach, the dangers of leaving your children and pets in a parked car increase. In the United States alone, an average of 37 children die every year from being left in a hot car. Here's why you should never leave your children or pets in a parked car, even if it's just for a few minutes.
Cars Reach Dangerous Temperatures Quickly
In just ten minutes, the temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20° F, in twenty minutes, it can rise by nearly 30° F. The temperature continues to rise and after an hour, the inside of your vehicle can be more than 40° F hotter.
Temperature increase can vary depending on the type of vehicle you drive and the color of the interior and exterior, but according to a study performed by the Louisiana Office of Public health, the interiors of both a dark and light vehicle exceeded 125° after 20 minutes when parked on a hot day.
Once body temperature reaches 104° F, heatstroke starts to set in. On a 90° day, the car will reach over 104° in a little over ten minutes. When running a quick errand, you may think unbuckling your child from their car seat isn't worth the added time and trouble, especially if they're sleeping, but leaving them in the car for any length of time is risking their life. Even leaving the car running with the air conditioning on is dangerous because something could malfunction, leaving your child at risk.
Tennessee Law and Rescuing Children and Animals
What if you come across a parked vehicle with a child or family pet locked inside? What are the legal repercussions if you intervene? According to Tennessee House BILL 537, it is legal to break into a car to save a minor or an animal if you do so in the proper way stated in the bill. Before breaking into the vehicle, make sure the following apply:
- Determine that the doors are locked and there is no other way to enter the vehicle without breaking in.
- Assess the situation and determine that the minor or animal is in imminent danger and that forcibly entering the vehicle is necessary.
- Contact local law enforcement, the fire department, or a 911 operator before forcibly entering the vehicle.
- Don't use more force than necessary to enter the vehicle.
After you have forcibly entered the vehicle, you are required to leave a notice on the windshield with your contact information, the reason you broke into their vehicle, the location of the child or animal, and the fact that the authorities have been contacted. You must also remain with the child or animal in a safe location near the vehicle until the authorities arrive.
Next time you think about running a quick errand with your child or pet in the car, remember how quickly your car turns into an oven. Leave yourself a reminder that you have your child in the car and leave your pet at home. It's never worth risking their lives.