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What You Need to Know About Hot Cars—From Dangers to Legislation

Child being buckled into carseat

Just because summer is winding down doesn’t mean the worry about hot car hazards should. This summer, Carrie Underwood made headlines for smashing a window to save her infant son and dogs after accidentally locking them in her vehicle in the hot sun. She’s not the only one either. Dozens of stories pop up every year about animals and children being injured or worse when left in hot cars. Buf if it’s only for a few minutes, it’s okay, right? Wrong. Here are some facts about hot cars:

  • On a 78 degree day,  temperatures can reach 160 degrees inside a car even if the windows are cracked.
  • A vehicle heats up an average of
    20 degrees every 10 minutes
    .
  • An average of 38 children die every year from being left in hot cars.
  • More than 50% of hot car related child deaths result because the guardian forgot the child in the car.
  • Children two and younger account for 70% of heat stroke deaths in cars.
  • 619 children in the U.S. have died in hot vehicles since 1998.
  • In just 15 minutes, animals can develop brain damage or die in a hot car.

Protection of animals and children

Unattended Child Laws

A number of states have laws that prohibit leaving a child, six or under, in the car alone or without the supervision of another person—at least 12 or older. Since more than half of hot car incidents happen when children are forgotten in cars or left alone, this law is in place to try to prevent this from happening.

Good Samaritan Laws

House Bill 537 is an add-on to the Good Samaritan Law that was originally passed to allow bystanders to intervene if children were trapped in hot cars. Now, it is the first bill in place to protect animals locked in hot cars.

Currently, only 16 states have some legal measure in place for animals in hot cars. However, thanks to Tennessee legislation in July, people may act, and even smash car windows to save animals trapped inside without being liable or be subject to legal action. It’s up to the owner of the car to pay for all damages and fine associated with the incident.

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Tips for handling hot car red flags

Now, there are some rules. You can’t just go smashing windows willy-nilly, but if you see an animal or child in danger you may now act accordingly without worrying about being punished for being a hero. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Assess the situation. Does the child or dog look distressed? Is the parent or guardian anywhere in sight? Is the child or animal all alone? If so, proceed to step two.
  2. Call a police officer immediately. They are allowed to break into the vehicle and even smash windows if necessary without worry of prosecution. Wait by the vehicle with the child(ren) or animals until help arrives.
  3. Smash the window yourself to save the animal if you live in a state where Good Samaritan Laws protect you against property damage suits.
  4. Whatever you do, just make sure you always know what your auto insurance covers and what your state laws allow so that you’re ready for whatever the day throws at you.

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