If you came out of the supermarket on one of these hot summer days and spotted a child in the back seat of a car parked next to yours with the windows rolled up and no one was at the wheel, what would you do?
Would you wait around and see if the child was all right? Or would you mind your own business, leave, and hope the parent, guardian, nanny or baby-sitter returns soon? Would you do nothing? Or would you call 9-1-1?
The sweltering temperatures this summer are the kind of weather that should serve as a wake-up call to parents and other caretakers of children about the risks of abandoning kids in hot cars. Equally as dangerous, kids also can climb into cars unbeknownst to the adults who are supposed to be watching them.
Not recognizing the dangers of heat stroke — as even some older, supposedly wiser adults are prone to do — could be fatal.
The Connecticut state police recently provided some cold hard, troublesome facts: 44 children died nationwide last year due to automobile heat-related deaths; and since 1998, more than 500 kids have died from hyperthermia after being left in a hot vehicle, or they were unsupervised youngsters who entered parked cars to play. So far this year, 15 children have died from heat stroke.
You think it can’t happen here? In recent weeks, Ridgefield police were notified about the death of a 15-month-old toddler. A police captain said “the infant was left unattended inside a parked vehicle for an extended period of time.”
A Shelton mom was arrested in Orange on July 3, allegedly leaving her three-year-old child in the hot car to run into a grocery store.
A witness saw what was happening and called police.
“Despite the very high temperatures this day, the child was unharmed due to the fast action of the concerned citizen and immediate police response,” stated a report from the police.
It takes only minutes before the dry heat temps (which can soar to triple digits) within a car become dangerous to infants and small children.
Parents should keep their cars locked and tell their children that cars are not playgrounds. Leaving a child unsupervised in a motor vehicle may result in a felony charge in Connecticut.
State police officials’ and child protective services authorities’ response to those who observe a child left unattended in any car on a hot day is quick and simple: “Call 9-1-1 immediately.” It’s a true emergency in their minds. Your actions may save a life.
Bystanders can come up with many reasons to not intervene. But your risk of being called a meddling, overprotective busybody or becoming the target of a parent’s wrath would be minimal in comparison to the preventable tragedy that would be averted.