Pa. (WETM) — The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is reminding parents to “Look Before You Lock” to avoid leaving children in hot cars.
According to PennDOT, over 940 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in the U.S. since 1998. PennDOT partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to release a guide to prevent more of these deaths.
PennDOT urges parents and caregivers to look in the back seat every time they exit the car, even if they are not traveling with the child. This will help parents form the habit of checking and make sure they don’t forget they were traveling with a child. According to the NHTSA, more than half of all hot car deaths occur because the child was forgotten in the car.
Children should never be left in vehicles unattended. Parents should also always keep their cars locked with the keys out of reach so children can’t get inside on their own. Children getting into unattended cars is the second leading cause of hot car deaths. According to the NHTSA, a car’s temperature can heat up by 40 degrees within 30 minutes and a child can die if their body reaches 107 degrees. A few minutes alone in a hot car can be deadly for children.
If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, there are ways you can help. If the child appears to be unresponsive or otherwise not okay, call 911 immediately. If the child seems to be okay, try to locate the guardians immediately. If you are with multiple people, have one person stay at the car and the others look for the parents.
If the child in the car is unresponsive or appears to be in distress, try to get into the car to help the child after calling 911. Pennsylvania’s “Good Samaritans” law will protect you from a lawsuit if you need to break a window to help a child. To be protected by this law, you must use no more force than necessary, have contacted law enforcement, and have made a good-faith effort to contact the owner of the vehicle. If you aren’t sure what to do, the 911 operator will help walk you through the steps you should take.
It’s important to know the warning signs of heatstroke. The warning signs can include red and hot skin, no sweating, a rapid pulse, a weak pulse, nausea, confusion, and strange behavior. If a child is showing any of these signs after being in a hot car, you should spray them with cool water or a garden hose right away. You should never put a child in an ice bath. Call emergency services immediately after finding a child displaying heatstroke symptoms.