Children require a lot of care and constant supervision when they are young. Such is the reason reports of children being left in cars are so surprising and generate so much outrage.
Many parents would never intentionally put their youngsters in harm's way, but leaving a child in an unattended vehicle — even if it's just for a few minutes — can be incredibly dangerous. Many states even consider such behavior a crime.
Since 1998, 611 children have died from hyperthermia, or heat stroke, which resulted from the kids having been left in hot cars. Consumer Reports notes that more than 50 percent of those deaths were children under the age of 2.
Heat is not the only danger children face when left in cars. Cold cars can be equally dangerous. Young children cannot regulate their body temperature very well. The University of Rochester Medical Center says babies can't adjust to temperature changes as well as adults, and infants can lose heat rapidly, nearly four times faster than adults. Healthy newborns may not be able to keep their bodies warm if the environment around them is too cold. On cold, snowy days, babies may need a constant flow of heat in the car to remain comfortable.
Weather and temperature are not the only dangers kids face when left alone in cars. Strangulation from safety belts, entrapment in doors and windows and falls from open windows also may occur when kids are left in cars unsupervised. Some dexterous children may climb into the driver's seat and engage the gear shift, causing the vehicle to move. Abduction is another potential danger, as unattended children in cars are potential targets for kidnappers.
Never leave a child unattended in a car. Parents prone to forgetfulness can put a stuffed animal on the front seat to serve as a reminder that they have kids in tow or place a purse or wallet on the backseat so they must look in the back of the car before exiting their vehicles.