Editorial: Heat kills

Anyone who gets into a car after it’s been closed up on a hot day knows how hot it can get inside. The steering wheel is too hot to touch and the air is thick and it’s hard to breathe.

Imagine being locked in that car for 15, 20, or 30 minutes. All too often, people and pets are.

As temperatures climb in mid-summer, Wilton police and state Rep. Gail Lavielle have introduced an initiative to warn people of the dangers of leaving children or pets in cars when it is hot outside. It’s called Heat Kills, If You Love ’em, Don’t Leave ’em.”

It’s timely advice. Even though most people recognize the danger, it’s worth repeating and enforcing. When it’s 70 degrees outside, it can be 120 degrees in a car; and when it’s 80 degrees, it can rise to 150 degrees or 160 degrees in a car, essentially turning the car’s interior into an oven.

Although Connecticut historically has few cases of children dying after being left unattended, the issue made national headlines a few years ago when a 15-month-old Ridgefield boy died after his father forgot he was in the back seat and left him in a hot car for hours.

Earlier this summer, a Trumbull man was arrested in Bridgeport after he reportedly left his daughter and her dog in his locked pickup truck while he went shopping. The 5-year-old girl and dog were left in a parking lot while outside temperatures were about 81 degrees, police said. The driver said he left the windows cracked and the doors locked. Police were called to the scene after witnesses called to report the girl was banging on the windows to be let out. Shopping always takes longer than you think.

Children left in a parked car can suffer heat stroke and possibly die. Dogs pant to cool themselves. Left in a hot car they can overheat rapidly and die.

Tragically, some cases of children killed or injured by being left in a hot car are truly accidents. Parents have a lot on their minds and it is easier than one might think to forget a sleeping child in the back seat. One way to prevent his is to get in the habit of checking the back seat every time you arrive at your destination. It’s called  “look before you lock.” One way to do this is to put a cell phone, handbag, briefcase, or employee badge in the back seat with the child to ensure you always open the back door when you get where you are going.

Remember, it doesn’t have to feel hot outside to be dangerously hot inside a parked car. If you see a child or pet in a locked car on a warm or hot day, don’t hesitate to call the police. You can call 203-834-6260 or simply, 911.