Last year, Americans set a tragic record: 51 children died from vehicular heatstroke, the highest number in recorded history.
Vehicular heatstroke can happen year-round, but the risk is higher in the summer months, especially in states like Arkansas that experience relentless heat and humidity from May through August.
Anyone can be the victim of vehicular heatstroke, but the risk is greater for children. That’s because their bodies do not regulate temperature as efficiently. Arkansas law also requires young children to ride in the backseat, where they may be overlooked.
Most parents are aware that hot cars can be dangerous, even deadly. Unfortunately, simple awareness is not enough. Prevention requires action.
How can I protect my own child from heatstroke?
The good news is that the tragedy of hot car deaths is 100% preventable. Implement the following guidelines to help ensure your child’s safety.
- NEVER leave your child in the car for any length of time. There is simply no safe length of time to do so. Even on a pleasant day, the interior temperature of a car can increase by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Rolling down windows or parking in the shade does not make a significant difference. If you need to exit the car, take your child with you – every time.
- Set a routine and stick to it. Hot car tragedies often occur when parents or caregivers veer from an established routine. Place something important in the backseat as a reminder, like a briefcase, cell phone, or even your shoe. Post a sticker or note on your dashboard reminding you to “look before you lock.” Avoid distractions while driving, as well.
- Lock vehicle doors when no one is inside. Children often view cars as a playground, which can have tragic results in the summer heat. They may accidentally lock themselves inside or be unable to use the door handle. 26% of all recorded hot car deaths occurred when children climbed into cars without their parents’ knowledge. Once you arrive home and exit the vehicle with your children, lock the doors.
For more resources on heatstroke prevention, visit our post on Child Safety: Avoiding Heatstroke as Temps Soar.
What can I do if I see a child left alone in a car?
Protecting children from heatstroke is everyone’s business. If you see something, say something. If you see an unattended child in a car and think they may be in danger, call 911 immediately.
You don’t have to wait for law enforcement to arrive, though. If the child is unresponsive or seems to be in pain:
- Find a way to get them out of the car.
- Spray the child with cool water or apply cool compresses – not ice.
- Stay with the child until emergency services arrive.
Good Samaritan Laws in Arkansas
Arkansas, like many other states, has a Good Samaritan law to protect people who offer aid in emergency situations. While the law is listed under “Medical Professions” in the Arkansas Code, it includes a section for ordinary citizens.
Any person who is present at an emergency or accident scene will not be held liable for civil damages (such as breaking a car window) on two conditions:
- The person believes the health/safety of a person is in immediate danger.
- The person is acting in good faith to remove the threat, without gross negligence or willful misconduct.
The Arkansas Good Samaritan law means that you can act to rescue a child from a hot car without fear of being sued. When you act, however, it requires that you do so responsibly and in good faith.
Find more detailed information on Arkansas’s Good Samaritan Laws…
Remember: if you see something, say something. Together, we can protect our children.