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WHAT is wrong with people?

Last week I posted an editorial (below) discussing leaving children -- and pets -- in vehicles on a very hot, sunny day.

Last week I posted an editorial (below) discussing leaving children -- and pets -- in vehicles on a very hot, sunny day.

While I certainly don't believe that everyone in North America reads my column or takes my advice, mine was not the only voiced raised on this topic. Similar editorials have appeared in the media -- online, print, and broadcast -- as well as too many news articles telling of yet another incident.

And yet, it continues to happen.

Yesterday, in Oakville, a father left his nine-month old daughter in his vehicle while he went into Home Depot. Passers-by saw the infant, who was reported to be sweating profusely, and notified the store management who paged the owner to return to the vehicle.

When the father approached the vehicle the crowd that had gathered angrily berated him.

The child was examined by paramedics and released to her mother.

The father was arrested and charged by Halton Regional Police. He was released from custody pending a court appearance.

I realize most people would not leave their children in their vehicles. Sadly, some will "forget" their children (which experts say is easier done than one might think), while others will convince themselves that they will be fine "for a few minutes."

Unfortunately, a few minutes is all it takes for the interior temperature to climb above 40°C (104°F).

The following link has information and statistics regarding vehicular heat stroke.

Please, please do not leave children in vehicles. Really, regardless of the temperature, why would you leave your child unattended?

And, if you should see a child in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1.

A child's life may depend on your actions.




While the temperatures may not have been quite as hot as they could have, for this time of year, we have been enjoying some rather nice weather. In a way, it’s been a bit more like August than July, with hot days and cool nights.

However, there have been a few incidents that have made the headlines that need to be addressed, involving people leaving — or “forgetting” — children and pets in their vehicles.

Much attention has been given to this in the media recently, especially following the death of a toddler in Milton, Ontario, on 26 June. The child’s grandmother left the two-year old in the back of a sweltering car.

Last week a three-year old Edmonton girl died in the back seat of her parents’ car.

There have been reports from across North America of similar incidents — some fatal, some - luckily - rescued in time.

  • In Orlando, Florida, a 30-year-old babysitter was arrested after leaving two children (ages 4 and 5) in her car while she went in to visit the boys’ father in jail. The boys were somewhat dehydrated, but otherwise okay.
  • a mother in Virgina “forgot” her 4-year old daughter was in the car when she went in to work. The girl was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
  • a relative who was supposed to drive a 16-month old infant to daycare “forgot” and drove home instead, where he went in for a nap. She was dead four hours later.

There have also been incidents of pets being left in cars, again, some of which died and others that were rescued.

Some of the adults involved have said they “left the windows open a crack,” thinking that would be sufficient. One even left a bowl of water for his dog. 

A vehicle sitting in a parking lot in the sun acts very much as a greenhouse, with the interior temperatures climbing to intolerable levels in mere minutes.

Today I parked my driving school car while I went in to a local burger joint for lunch. I took pictures of a thermometer affixed to the dash, and one hanging from the coat hook above the rear passenger door. I was inside for about 30 minutes.

When I returned, the dash thermometer showed a temperature of 37°C (99°F), and the rear thermometer 48°C (118°F). Believe me when I say it was HOT.

37°C - Dashboard


48°C - Rear

Rear Seat

Again, the car had only been parked for 30 minutes. Prior to that, It had been a comfortable 23°C in both front and rear.

The drive home took about 10 minutes or so. With the AC on HIGH all the way, the car was just getting comfortable as I pulled into the driveway. After parking I took another set of pictures.

Now, the front showed a tolerable but still too warm 27°C (81°F), and the rear was a degree higher at 28°C (82°F).

27°C - Dashboard


28°C - Rear

Rear Seat

There have been times when I was teaching high school during the day, and when I returned to the car at 3 o’clock the thermometer was pegged-out at 50°C (122°F). Who knows what the actual temperature was, but I can tell you the AC was on full AND I drove with the windows open to try and expel that hot air.

FYI - typically hot tubs are kept at 40°C (104°F), which is also the average temperature in a sauna.

Think about that the next time you are considering leaving your kid, or even your fur-coated pet, in the car while you pop into the store “for a few minutes.”

Children aren’t able to tolerate heat as well as adults. Their respiration is quicker and shallower, and beside which they will be breathing-in very hot air. They will suffer very quickly.

Really, the same applies to pets who, unlike humans, are mostly unable to sweat. Dogs have sweat glands only on their muzzle and foot pads. They also are covered in fur, meant to help keep them warm in cooler weather.

For that matter, I really have to question WHY people feel the need to bring their pets with them when they go shopping, or to the bank, or anywhere, really.

Yes, I get that they are “like family.” I’ve owned both cats and dogs, and I do know the emotional attachment of being a pet owner. But… the only time I brought a pet for a ride was to for a visit to the vet, or when taking them out to camp.

I understand that people will drive their dogs to a park to take them for a walk (or off-leash run). But I see people driving all over town with dogs in the vehicle — sometimes on the drivers lap, hanging out the side window.

Yes, they (the dogs) love going for a ride, especially if you stop for ice cream or a titbit, or other treat.

But is that really appropriate, especially if you are planning to stop at a store to do some shopping?

A number of recent articles on the subject offer this suggestion:

  • Park your vehicle in full sun. Roll down the windows “just a crack” and shut the engine off. If you can bring a thermometer with you, all the better. (I picked up mine at Wally-world for under $3 each.)
  • Bring a book with you — and perhaps a water bottle — and see how long you can last. Record the temperature when you start, and at five-minute increments.

I believe you will be astonished how quickly the interior of your vehicle heats up.

Now picture how that would feel for your kid, grandkid, or pet.

While I have driven off with my travel mug on the roof, I can’t imagine “forgetting” a child in the back of a car. 

Still, I suppose one can get distracted and — especially if the child is quiet, or perhaps has fallen asleep — it could be possible to forget the child is in the car.

But, when children (or pets) are purposely left in a hot car — sometimes because they are sleeping, and the parent does not wish to waken them — while the parent/adult goes in to do some shopping or whatever, this really is unacceptable.

Sadly, this sort of thing occurs every year, and every year there are warnings issued and education campaigns embarked upon.

I’m not sure what it will take to convince people to not leave children or pets in hot cars, but I hope the message catches on soon, before another child dies.

But… that’s just my opinion.