Temperatures inside a car can reach dangerously high levels even when it feels just right outside.
That was the message delivered Tuesday by the Paris Police Department and Texas Department of Transportation during an outreach project at Walmart after a 3-year-old child was left in an SUV in the store’s parking lot Aug. 6. Despite spending 40 minutes in the hot vehicle, the sweaty child was deemed OK by medical personnel.
The incident happened when each of the child’s grandparents, who were shopping with their other grandchildren, thought the other had the 3-year-old, police said. Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley after the incident again reminded drivers to look before they lock to prevent such incidents.
On Tuesday, police and TxDOT officials drove the point home with a large, electronic thermometer that compared the outside temperature with the temperature inside a nearby parked truck. By 10:15 a.m., when the outdoor temperature was around 91 degrees, the truck’s temperature was 129.
“We’re wanting people to see how dangerous it is to leave your pets in your vehicle, your kids in your vehicle not running, and how quick that temperature goes up inside that vehicle,” said Officer Curtis Graham as he handed out sun visors and safety lanyards.
Graham said the department receives calls about children and animals being left in hot cars during the summer months, adding it’s an issue “not just in Paris, but everywhere.” He said the department wanted to emphasize how important it is for parents and pet owners to check the backseat before leaving the car.
“We’re always wanting to put the information out to people to say, ‘Hey, don’t leave your pets in your car, don’t leave your kids in your car,’” he said. “That’s precious cargo, and that’s something you don’t want to do.”
Walmart assistant manager Steven Williams said the store was supportive of the project.
“We want to support any local effort to help educate our shoppers,” he said. “We don’t want a day at the grocery store to turn into a tragedy. So anything we can do to help support this group, they’re doing a great job.”
On Aug. 6, the outdoor temperature was 86 degrees before the child was rescued, police said. Fortunately, the windows were down enough to allow a passerby to reach in and unlock the door to retrieve the child, Police Chief Bob Hundley said.
“The air temperature at the time was 86 degrees, which could have contributed to a 100-plus temperature inside the vehicle easily,” the chief said.
Hundley said higher temperatures would likely have “altered the outcome of this incident horribly.”
Besides being mindful while drivers leave their vehicles, Graham recommended staying hydrated, drinking plenty of water and avoiding exercise in the height of the day’s heat.
Williams said being mindful of children and pets’ well-being was “extremely important,” and not just during the summer months.
“Everyone has busy lives, but nothing more important than what’s in the backseat of the vehicle,” Williams said.