It’s getting hotter out there. And while it may sound simple to tell people to never leave young children in cars in the summer — or anytime for that matter — it still happens all too often. Many people think it’s okay even “for a couple of minutes.” But every year, children die from heat stroke (hyperthermia) because they were left in hot cars.
It is too easy for harried parents or distracted caregivers to overlook a sleeping baby in a car. The end result can be a tragic child injury and death.
According to the nonprofit safety group Kidsandcars.org, every year an average of 38 children die in hot cars from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside. And more than 600 U.S. children have died when left alone in cars since 1990.
Our attorneys often get questions from parents on the best ways to keep their kids safe in the car. Here’s a helpful safety list from kidsandcars.org:
- Never leave children alone in cars. Not even for a minute.
- Put something you’ll need on the floor board in the back seat. Such as your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc.
- Get in the habit of opening the back door of your car every time you reach your destination. This will help you make sure no child has been left. It’s called “look before you lock.”
- Keep a large stuffed animal in your child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front. This is a visual reminder that your child is in the back seat.
- Ask your child’s day care or babysitter to call if your child doesn’t show up when expected. Many children’s lives could have been saved with a call from a concerned child care provider.
- Keep your vehicles locked at all times. Even in the garage or driveway.
- Keep keys and garage door openers away from children.
- Make sure all child passengers have exited the vehicle after you park.
- Check your car and trunk immediately if a child is missing.
- Get involved if you see a child alone in a car. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Be careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times. This can include schedule changes, stress at work, periods of crisis or holidays.
- Use the drive-thru when possible. Such as restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc.
- Pay for gas at the pump. With your debit or credit card.
Michigan law: unattended children in cars
Michigan has a law addressing children left behind in cars. Even if there is no physical harm, the caregiver can still receive a misdemeanor ruling of imprisonment for up to 93 days, or a fine of up to $500 or both.
If the violation results in physical harm, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.
If the violation results in serious physical harm to the child, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.
If the violation results in the death of the child, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.
Here’s more safety advice on children in cars from Safe Kids USA.
– Steven Gursten is head of Michigan Auto Law. He president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve frequently writes and speaks on child safety and teen driving, and is available for comment.
Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 to speak with one of our attorneys.