Summerlike weather has arrived to much of the United States, and with it comes one of the most dangerous time for kids, 42 of whom died in hot cars last year. A new report from the National Safety Council shows that even as deaths due to vehicular heatstroke rise, fewer than half of U.S. states have any kind of law addressing it.
Every state, including ours, is lacking in protection, failing to receive an A grade from the safety council.
What does exist in 21 states is a patchwork of laws, only eight of which include the possibility of felony charges when children are deliberately left alone in hot cars. Some laws lack teeth — police in Rhode Island, for example, give a verbal warning if someone leaves a child alone in a car. Other laws suggest there are time periods when children are “safe” in a hot car, the opposite of what the National Safety Council wants people to know: Children are never safely left unattended in a car.
Michigan got a C from the National Safety Council for failing to implement policy changes that could help reduce the number of hot car deaths. Our state ranks 30th nationally in the nearly 20-year database kept by kidsandcars.org that tracks hot car deaths by state from 1999-2017.
There’s a law not to leave children unattended in cars, with possible misdemeanor or even felony charges, plus fines, but Michigan does not have the common Good Samaritan law offering protection to people who might rescue kids from hot cars. Read the full Michigan safety report card.
Here’s the problem: Even when outdoor temperatures are cool, closed up cars trap heat quickly and become deadly for children. On sweltering, summer days like Michigan is known for, the danger is especially acute for children — and older dependent adults and pets.
When the outside temperature is around 86, interior temperatures can go up at least 19 degrees in as few as 10 minutes, according to a 2005 study that looked at the “greenhouse effect” the sun can have on vehicles. Young kids and babies dehydrate more quickly than adults and are unable to regulate their body temperatures, so their bodies heat up three to five times faster and their organs begin to shut down more quickly.
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