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Hot Summers, Hot Cars


As of July 3, 2018, 80 million people in the United States were under heat advisories. Temperatures across much of the East Coast have been and are expected to continue to be above 90 degrees, putting heat indices (the temperature plus humidity) between 100-110 in many regions. In New York City, the heat wave is expected to last a full week, which according to AccuWeather only happens once every 33 years.

Even before the current blistering temperatures, children had once again fallen victim to hot cars: by June 25, 2018, 18 children had died in hot car deaths in the United States. The average annual number of children who die due to being left in hot cars is 37. Since 1995, 34 children in Georgia have died in hot cars, making Georgia fifth in the country for these tragedies.

People may not realize how fast cars heat up. On an 86 degree day, the temperature inside a car reaches 105 degrees in only 10 minutes. On a 90 degree day, the inside of a car will reach 120 degrees in approximately 15 minutes. Given the fact that a child’s body heats up 3-5 times faster than an adult’s body, leaving a child inside a car for any length of time can result in tragedy.


Many times children are left in cars unintentionally. This phenomenon is known as “forgotten baby syndrome,” and has been studied and reported on widely over the past couple decades. Forgotten baby syndrome occurs across every sector; it can strike in every socioeconomic, age and racial demographic. While the immediate reaction of many parents and caregivers is denial and blame—the “I could never forget my child” assertion, the truth is that many good, caring parents have and do forget that their quiet, sleeping children are in car seats in the rear of the car. As noted above, on even an average summer day, forgetting a child for even a short period of time can have devastating consequences.

There are currently several apps and alarms that can be utilized to help parents and caregivers remember that their children are in car seats in the back of cars. Evenflo car seat chimes when the car is turned off to remind the driver that the child is still buckled in the car seat in the back. GMC and Nissan have an alert system to remind drivers to check the rear seats. There are apps that can be installed on smart phones that remind parents and caregivers to check the back seat, to check with a child’s daycare or sitter, or that require the daycare/sitter/preschool to call the parent if the child has not arrived within a certain time period. A parent or caregiver should always have a safety plan in place, such as putting their purse or wallet by the car seat so they will be sure to “look before they lock,” or requiring the child’s destination to call them if the child doesn’t arrive.


As of this month, Kansas joined 17 other states in passing a law that grants immunity from civil liability for rescuing a child trapped in a hot car. If a Good Samaritan finds a child in a car and the child appears to be in distress, and there is no way into the car other than to break in, then under these laws the rescuer is protected from liability for any damages caused to the car (or the child). Georgia does not have a law specific to rescuing children or pets in hot cars, but it does have a Good Samaritan law that protects medical personnel and first responders who render emergency care at the scene of an accident. See O.C.G.A. Section 51-1-29.

When rescuing a child in a hot car, take the following steps:

1. First confirm that the child (or pet) is at risk;

2. Check that all doors—including any hatchback or trunk—are locked;

3. Call emergency services;

4. Break into the car and remove the child (or pet);

5. Stay with the child (or pet) until emergency services arrive.


If you or someone you know is experiencing legal issues related to rendering aid, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
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