Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash

The heat is back. Partnered with Charleston’s cloying humidity, look for temperatures to feel like they’re in triple digits for the next unmerciful month. 

This year, let’s deal with our annual unpleasantness safely by not letting people or pets wait inside parked cars — even for a minute. If you park a car in the sun when it’s 90 degrees outside — a typical midday temperature this time of year — it takes just 10 minutes for a car’s internal temperature to reach 109 degrees. After 20 minutes, the inside of the car can be 119 degrees. 

Those are deadly temperatures. And cracked windows don’t help anyone inside. The hot sun, beating down on the roof of a car, still causes temperatures to soar inside parked vehicles. How deadly? People can suffer heat stroke when their core body temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher. It’s potentially lethal for a person or pet to be in a closed car for any length of time on South Carolina’s hot, humid days.

Hats off to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for drawing attention to the deadly issue of hot car deaths. Every year across the country, about one child dies every week from being left in hot cars, either when a driver intentionally leaves a child — “just for a minute” — in a vehicle while doing something else or when a parent or guardian forgets a child in a vehicle. Sometimes, a child locks himself or herself into a car without the driver realizing it, according to DHEC. Just as people suffer in hot cars, so do pets. 

If you see a child in a hot car, South Carolina’s Good Samaritan law allows you to break a window to get the child out of the heat. Sadly, no such law exists for pets.
As such, you should call 9-1-1 immediately if you see a pet sweltering in a car.

The heat is always a challenge in the Palmetto State. Let’s not make it worse by doing anything dumb that’s preventable. 

Look Before Your Lock

Here are some tips for when you exit your car, according to the National Safety Council:

  • Open the back door every time you park the car to make sure no one is inside.
  • When driving a child, put something you need in the backseat, such as a handbag, so you’ll get it and the child when you leave the car.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in a child’s car seat. When traveling with a child, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat to remind you of your young passenger.
  • If you have a change in routine, such as your spouse or parent dropping your child off at child care instead of you, make sure you and the other person communicate to confirm the drop-off was made.
  • Consider technology that alerts drivers to check the back seat. (Vehicle and child restraint manufacturers have been working on various evolving alert systems and some technologies are available now.)

Find other tips at NSC.org/heatstroke.