Children, Vehicles and Heat Strokes

Summers in Virginia are known for two things: heat and humidity. This summer has already been an especially difficult one to bear, with daily temperatures averaging in the 90’s and very little rain. Aside from remembering to stay hydrated throughout the day, it is important to remember that the slightest mistake in this kind of heat can result in life-threatening consequences and even death.

The Georgia father of 22-month old Cooper Harris is currently paying the consequences for such a mistake. While a criminal investigation is ongoing, what he has claimed is that he forgot to drop Cooper off at day care, leaving him in a locked car for seven hours under the hot southern sun while he went to work. His mistake resulted in Cooper’s death.  Despite what the criminal investigation turns up concerning whether or not his leaving Cooper in the car was intentional, the end result is still horribly tragic.  It is also something that occurs far more often than most of us realize.

When a car is left to sit in the hot sun with the windows up and no fresh air moving through the vehicle, temperatures can rise dramatically in a very short period of time, turning the vehicle into an oven.  Such conditions and temperatures can be lethal for adults and kids alike.  But this is especially true for children who are at a greater risk of suffering a heat stroke and often don’t have the ability to let themselves out of a vehicle.

According to, so far this year there have been 17 reported deaths of children due to being left in a hot car. Cooper was the sixth death in this month alone. And these numbers are small compared to the infant/child deaths that have occurred in past years.  The Kids and Cars organization is a great resource for how to keep children safe in and around vehicles.

Here are a few tips that can help prevent accidentally leaving your child in a car:

  • Never ever leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
  • Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., on the floor board in the back seat.
  •  Make arrangements with your child’s day care center or babysitter that you will always call if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled, so that they will call you and remind you that your child is not present.
  • Use drive-thru services when available, such as restaurants, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc. so that you don’t get distracted and end up leaving your child in the car for too long.
    • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal is up front, you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat.
    • If you leave your car unattended, make sure your doors are locked to prevent children from getting in and trapping themselves inside.

Cooper’s story is a painful reminder that this is a continuing issue that the public needs to be made aware of. It is crucial that parents are educated on how to prevent tragedies like these from happening in the future.

About the Author: Jamie Kessel is a personal injury lawyer with the Allen Law Firm. He primarily works out of the Short Pump and Richmond offices. Jamie is experienced in handling complex personal injury cases involving child care injuries, distracted driving, brain injury, and wrongful deaths.