When employees of a Walmart in South Carolina learned that there was a baby in a hot car in the store’s parking lot, they took action, breaking the closed windows and rescuing the shaking, sweating 6-month-old inside. Local police are now investigating the situation.
Police say that both parents were inside the store while the temperature increased inside the vehicle, which was switched off and had its windows rolled up. A local safety advocate explained to TV station WSPA that the temperature in a car can rise ten degrees every twenty minutes, reaching around 115 degrees in the early summer.
The parents told police that they forgot the child was in the car while they were shopping, and the case is under investigation. The child survived, but WSPA didn’t have information on her current condition. No charges have been filed against the parents yet.
While leaving a child behind in a hot car may seem unthinkable, incidents have increased since rear-facing child safety seats that must be installed in the back seat became standard.
According to a 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post feature on the phenomenon, that change made it much easier to overlook the presence of a child in the back, especially if the child is quiet or sleeping, and if a family’s routine is disrupted in some way.
This year, according to the group Kids and Cars, nine children across the country have died when left behind in a parked car, and a total of 800 children have been killed since 1990.
Child safety advocates are campaigning for automakers to include features that sense weight in the back seat or remind drivers to check the back in new cars, which some automakers have started to introduce.
Experts also recommend leaving a necessary item like a purse, briefcase, mobile phone, or even the driver’s left shoe (if you have an automatic vehicle) in the backseat, creating an automatic reminder to check the backseat.
In South Carolina, a person who smashes a car window to rescue a child won’t be charged with a crime, but aspiring Good Samaritans should call 9-1-1 first, then follow the dispatcher’s instructions. The Spartanburg Walmart employees broke the window first, then called emergency services.